Film and sport company Constantin Medien has launched a pay version of its Sport1 channel, creating further competition for the Sky Deutschland platform. Called Sport1 plus, the channel is initially available in a standard definition (SD) version via German cable operators. A high definition (HD) version will launch next month. Sport1, rebranded from DSF in April this year, is a free-to-air channel distributed to most of Germany's 38 million TV homes and derives almost all of its income from ad sales.
Constantin Medien, listed on the small cap SDAX stock market, also owns the TEAM rights agency and through its Plazamedia arm produces Deutsche Telekom's live coverage of the Bundesliga for IPTV and mobile.
Sport 1 plus will have exclusive rights to two volleyball competitions - the 2010 World Championships and the CEV Champions League - as well as the handball and basketball Bundesligas. The channel will also have the rights to several top drawer European football competitions: the FA Cup and Carling Cup, the Coupe de France and the Coppa Italia.
Sport 1 plus launched in SD on Kabel BW and in SD and HD on Unitymedia this month. The HD version will launch soon on Kabel BW and both versions will be added to the Kabel Deutschland line-up next month. While the channel is currently cable-exclusive, Sport 1 said it is in talks with other providers.
The launch of a second premium pay channel is an interesting development in Germany, where Sky Deutschland has sewn up most of the attractive sports rights but has limited penetration in a market where most homes receive multiple channels for very low fees and are resistant to pay TV. Sport1 is highly unusual in that it is free to air sports channel and as such could be seen as one of its pay TV spin-off's main competitors. However Sport1 plus will certainly ratchet up the pressure on Sky, which this month added its Sky Sport HD2 sports channel to Kabel BW. None of the three cable companies carrying Sport1 plus has made any announcement of the Sport1 plus launch, which makes it seem decidedly low key.
However, Constantin Medien's deep involvement in TV sports rights and its Bundesliga contract with Deutsche Telekom would seem to make it a potential bidder for the contract to Germany's football championships next time round. The next contract will run from 2012/13 and the DFL is likely to start negotiations next year. Constantin shareholder Leo Kirch was the DFL's first choice of partner for the current contract. An initial agreement with DFL and Kirch had to be torn up after it was rejected by the federal competition office, the Bundeskartellamt.
Sport 1 declined to comment on whether it might be interested in bidding for the Bundesliga, saying it was 'not relevant'.
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