The Bundeskartellamt has found that the two broadcasters made agreements as early as 2005 and 2006 about encryption of their signals on cable, satellite and IPTV.
According to the cartel office, the broadcaster agreed to encrypt all their SD channels in the future and ask a fee for carriage.
The two parties also agreed to introduce technical measure to prevent skipping of commercials as well as introduce copy protection systems. The agreement does not encompass the encryption of the HD versions of the channels.
The fines totalling €55 million are not yet final, but have to be confirmed by the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf.
The Kartellamt ruling has an immediate effect on the current cable distribution of the channels from the two group: from now on they will have to be carried unencrypted by the German cable networks.
Unitymedia already announced it would distribute all private broadcasters unencrypted over their networks from January, 2013, but this was one of the conditions of the Unitymedia – KabelBW merger.
All major German cablers, including Kabel Deutschland, Tele Columbus and Primacom, encrypt all private channels on their networks. A spokesperson for Kakebl Deutschland told the German online news service Digital Fernsehen that they will continue encoding the signals of the private broadcasters.