Bundesliga domestic tender derailed by DAZN allegations

(Sebastian El-Saqqa - firo sportphoto/Getty Images)
(Sebastian El-Saqqa - firo sportphoto/Getty Images)

The domestic Bundesliga rights sales process has ground to a halt after DAZN, one of the bidders, accused the league of violating competition laws by not accepting its offer.

Having invited bids at the start of this week for domestic broadcast rights from 2025-26 to 2028-29, the German Football League (DFL) is now the subject of claims made by one its two main incumbent broadcasters.

In a letter to the DFL reported by Bild, DAZN claims that its bid for Package B was rejected despite lodging “the most financially attractive and convincing offer”.

The letter, as reported by the newspaper, read: “We were led to believe that our financial offer was significantly higher than any other.

“We have no other explanation for this behaviour than that the DFL management had already anticipated the result to award Package B to its preferred bidder and deprive the member clubs of their share of the additional income from the DAZN offer without conducting another round of bidding.”

Package B, reserved for pay-TV broadcasters only, comprises all 196 matches per season made up of individual fixtures on Fridays and Saturday afternoons, and the Bundesliga versus 2. Bundesliga play-off.

The DFL tender rules state that an offer will be accepted if it is the only one above the reserve price and the second-highest bid is more than 20 per cent lower. It would also be accepted if it is the highest of multiple offers over the reserve price but more than 20 per cent above the second-highest bid.

In its letter to DFL joint chief executives Marc Lenz and Steffen Merkel, plus all 36 clubs from the top two divisions, DAZN also criticised the league for demanding a bank guarantee with just 24 hours’ notice.

DAZN stated in the letter signed by chief executive Shay Segev that it would not provide a bank guarantee but a “hard letter of responsibility” as “it has done in the previous tender”.

It continues: “The demand for disproportionate financial assurances and the rejection of proof of solvency, which would have fully corresponded to the legitimate interests of DFL GmbH, is an abuse of the dominant market position of DFL GmbH on the market for football broadcast rights in Germany and represents a decision by a business association that restricts competition.”

The league will now discuss the issue with the Bundeskartellamt, the German cartel office.

The claims have been strongly rejected by the DFL, which told SportBusiness: “The DFL has not made any errors in the procedure regarding the current auction process. DAZN’s allegations are inaccurate and are rejected by the DFL. As per the binding confidentiality rules agreed upon by all parties, including DAZN, the DFL will make no further comment at this time.”

In a statement to clubs seen by the DPA news agency, the DFL asserted that DAZN’s letter “contains a number of inaccurate statements and misrepresentations of facts”.

In a statement, DAZN told SportBusiness: “DAZN has concerns with elements of the process and has raised these issues directly with the DFL. DAZN remains committed to delivering value for the Bundesliga, its member clubs and their fans. We will not comment further on this topic at this stage.”

Tender process

The DFL went to market with the rights after receiving approval from the cartel office, to scrap the ‘no single-buyer’ rule in its preliminary assessment.

Faced with soft market conditions, the DFL is bidding to retain the value of its current contracts worth €1.1bn ($1.2bn) per season. The lifting of the ruling left the DFL confident that broadcasters would be incentivised to pay more for exclusivity.

The bulk of the rights fee at present comes from DAZN and pay-television broadcaster Sky Deutschland, which shared the key live rights packages during the last auction. Commercial broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 holds free-to-air rights to nine Bundesliga matches per season, sports broadcaster Sport1 has non-exclusive digital rights to 33 matches per season and ARD shows free-to-air highlights.

Seven live rights packages were put on the market when the DFL officially opened the auction, five of which were restricted to pay-TV bidders. Previously, the matches on Friday and Sunday were bundled into one package, but the matches on Sunday can now be acquired in an individual package. Details of the packages can be read here.

There are an additional eight highlights packages tendered, one of which is limited to pay-TV bidders. That is for clips after the final whistle for both leagues.

With all Bundesliga matches already shown live, the DFL has a difficult challenge to generate more money from broadcasters without being able to offer more inventory. In a bid to help address that, it is to innovate production and give media partners greater access to players.

Read this (SportBusiness Media): DFL bullish on domestic rights, but ‘flat is the new up’ in tough market