ARD, ZDF and Arte have cancelled their carriage contracts with the three major German cable operators, Kabel Deutschland, Kabel BW and Unitymedia.
The move by the main public broadcasters marks a further escalation of the dispute over carriage fees, which the public broadcasters have been paying to the operators to carry their channels over the networks. The pubcasters are now paying a fee to the operators to the tune of €60 million a year.
Until now, it was mainly a war of words with the cable operators claiming that the broadcasters are paying for distribution of their channels over satellite and digital terrestrial networks. During the recent ANGA Cable show, ANGA president Thomas Braun said the cablers want equal treatment – which means receiving a carriage fee from the broadcasters.
In spite of the cancellation of the current distribution contracts the German cable networks have to continue distributing the ‘must carry’ channels of the public broadcasters, such as SRD Das Erste, the main ZDF channel and the regional public ARD station. However, there is no obligation to carry the thematic digital channels, nor the out-of-state regional broadcasters.
“The carriage fees are historically obsolete. It is no longer justifiable to pay fees to companies that earn good money marketing our channels,” said ZDF director Thomas Bellut to Die Welt.
Unitymedia CEO Lutz Schüler told the newspaper that ARD and ZDF are paying €274 million for broadcasting on the digital terrestrial network, “which reaches only 4% of the TV viewers.”
The current distribution agreement between the operators and the broadcasters runso until the end of the year.