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Germany's federal cartel office Bundeskartellamt has concerns about the video-on-demand (VOD) portal Germany's Gold planned by public broadcasters ARD and ZDF, in particular because of the joint commercialisation of the content.

"ARD and ZDF act as entrepreneurs and competitors in the VOD market and therefore have to commercialise their products independently from each other like other companies," Andreas Mundt, president of the competition authority, said in Bonn. "According to the broadcasters' current plans, the joint online platform would, however, comprise coordination in particular regarding the prices and selection of videos. The antitrust problems are obvious."

Furthermore, the existing catch-up portals (Mediatheken) operated by ARD and ZDF and the production of their content are be financed by the public licence fee and would therefore already cause "considerable distortion of competition" in the VOD market, said Mundt. "More far-reaching barriers to competition through the broadcasters' commercial subsidiaries can't be accepted."

The joint commercialisation of fee-based videos on the Internet through commercial subsidiaries by ARD and ZDF would not only lead to a coordination of the prices and availability of the videos in the view of the cartel office. There would also be the danger that alternative platforms would be granted no or only restricted access to the videos.

The companies involved in the Germany's Gold project have indicated that they would be open for concessions, said the cartel office. According to the authority, the competitive concerns could be removed if the business model of joint commercialisation was given up and the project restricted to the operation of only a joint technical platform.

Several commercial ARD and ZDF subsidiaries founded Germany's Gold in April 2012 along with 11 production and rights dealing companies to establish a joint VOD platform for German TV programmes modelled on US portal Hulu. A comparable venture planned by commercial TV groups RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 has already been blocked by the cartel office.

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