ARD and the two major cable operators Vodafone Deutschland (formerly Kabel Deutschland) and Unitymedia have settled their dispute over carriage fees for the cable distribution of the public broadcaster’s channels. ZDF reached an agreement with Vodafone, but not with Unitymedia.
Under the terms of the agreements, the parties entered into new, long-standing partnerships for cable distribution which include the carriage of additional HD channels and the content from the public broadcasters’ catch-up portals. ARD and ZDF pay carriage fees for the cable distribution of their regular, linear channels as part of the agreements with the company, as a Vodafone spokeswoman confirmed to Broadband TV News.
The legal dispute that has been running since 1992 dealt with the controversial question of whether ARD and ZDF as the holders of ‘must carry’ status require a cable distribution contract and have to pay the cable operators a carriage fee. In 2011, ARD and ZDF terminated their carriage contracts with the major cable operators and suspended payments. It is no longer justifiable that fees are paid to companies that earn good money from the distribution of the public channels, ZDF’s general director Dr Thomas Bellut argued at the time. However, ARD and ZDF recently suffered a setback in the dispute: In July 2017, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court ruled that the broadcasters were obliged to pay carriage fees.
According to the agreement between Vodafone and ARD, the cable operator will shortly commence carriage of the channels ARD-alpha HD, Tagessschau24 HD, One HD and SR Fernsehen HD. With ZDF, Vodafone has agreed that ZDFinfo HD will soon be added to the line-up. In addition to the offers accessible via HbbTV (Red Button), Vodafone’s entertainment platform GigaTV will also soon make many programmes from the catch-up portals of ARD and ZDF available to customers directly after their TV broadcast on the set-top box, smartphone or tablet.
According to Hannes Ametsreiter, CEO of Vodafone Deutschland, the new partnerships with ARD and ZDF are a big step forward: “Together we are concentrating on offering viewers a unique television experience with high-quality TV offerings that can be accessed anytime and anywhere – with more TV variety and convenience through even more HD quality, catch-up portals and numerous new digital features on GigaTV.”
The agreement between Unitymedia and ARD enables Unitymedia’s TV customers to be able to receive the entire TV and radio offering of ARD’s affiliate broadcasters from April 24, 2018. For this purpose, six new TV channels will be added to the cable line-up: RBB Fernsehen Berlin HD, SR Fernsehen SD and HD, MDR Fernsehen Thüringen HD, tagesschau24 HD and Radio Bremen TV. New to the radio offer are NDR Blue, NDR Plus, Antenne Saar, Unser Ding SR, WDR2 Ruhrgebiet, WDR2 Rhein & Ruhr, BR Heimat and Bremen Next. In addition, ARD’s catch-up portal and the Tagesschau and KiKa app will soon be available via Unitymedia’s TV and multimedia platform Horizon. Viewers will soon also be able to use non-linear functions such as Replay and Instant Restart through Horizon.
“It is our aim to provide our customers with the best content – whether classic, on demand, time-shifted or via app – on our TV platform Horizon. This undoubtedly includes the extensive range of services offered by ARD. We are very pleased with the long-term agreement we have reached,” said Lutz Schüler, CEO of Unitymedia.
A Unitymedia spokesperson confirmed to Broadband TV News that ARD’s affiliate broadcasters pay a fee under the agreement “within the overall context of the comprehensive and long-term cooperation.”
However, there is still no contractual agreement between Unitymedia and ZDF, which is why the pending legal cases between both sides will continue, according to the spokesman. “We hope that the agreement with ARD has shown a mutually viable path for both sides that will provide orientation in the outstanding negotiations.”