German “Hulu” blocked by court

Germany’s two leading private broadcasters, ProSiebenSat.1 and RTL, have been frustrated again in their attempt to create a joint online video portal for OTT services, following a ruling by the country’s higher regional court, the Oberlandesgericht, in Dusseldorf.

This confirmed the earlier ruling by the monopoly commission, Bundeskartellamt, that the two main German private broadcasting groups had too dominant of a position in the TV advertising market. After this initial refusal by the Bundeskartellamt, the two broadcasters took the case to the Dusseldorf court in the vain hope that the commission’s refusal would be over-ruled. But, the court confirmed the Bundeskartellamt ruling that a common online platform would strengthen the duopoly of the two broadcasters, even if did not dominate the German OTT market as such.

The two broadcasters had hoped that its plan for a “German Hulu” would gain approval because it would be open to third parties. The ruling changes the situation and now means that new entrants, including potentially Hulu itself, might launch OTT services on their own platforms.

The comparison between the platform planned by the two broadcasters and Hulu was only partly accurate. Instead of being owned by two private broadcasters, Hulu is a joint venture between public companies, NBC Universal, owned by Comcast, News Corp subsidiary Fox Entertainment Group and the Disney-ABC Television Group.

As it happens, German public broadcasters are also trying to launch a common platform, with the project name of Germany’s Gold. The Bundeskartellamt still has to rule on this initiative, but it would make sense perhaps to come up with a joint platform shared among all German broadcasters, similar to the impending YouView in the UK.