Five leading employees will soon be leaving the headquarters on Frankfurt’s Guiollettstrasse for the most important job in the German Football League (DFL). They will be holding the TV rights auction at a secret location for almost two weeks. And that should bring several billion euros into the coffers.

Managing director Steffen Merkel is optimistic – and the league hopes that there will at least be no loss compared to the last tender.

Almost three weeks before the start, Merkel told the German Press Agency: “We are going into the auctions with confidence.” However, the DFL managing director did not want to comment on specific figures. The league currently earns an average of around 1.1 billion euros per season.

“Are growth rates of 60 or 80 percent like in 2012 or 2016 currently realistic in this market environment,” was Merkel’s rhetorical question when presenting the seven live and eight highlight packages. And he answered: “No, of course not. Everyone knows that too. The broadcasters know that, the clubs know that too. The DFL knows that too.”

Problems with Sky and DAZN

This is mainly due to Sky and DAZN’s problems recouping the costs of the expensive rights from their subscription customers. The current pay partners pay the league significantly more than 80 percent of the 4.4 billion for four years. Merkel and his team around rights director Marcus Beisiegel are hoping for new competitors. But who could that be? Shortly before the auction, which starts in mid-April, the broadcasters and media companies no longer comment at all or only comment vaguely.

RTL is cautiously signaling interest

“We look at everything that comes onto the market in terms of sports rights – of course also the Bundesliga rights,” said RTL boss Thomas Rabe in a telephone conference with journalists a few days ago. “Sports rights play a big role for us. This applies to both RTL, i.e. linear TV, and RTL.”

The RTL Group was even explicitly named as an interested party by the Federal Cartel Office when the authority canceled the so-called “no single buyer rule” after two rights periods, as requested by the DFL. This regulation stated that not one single pay-TV provider was allowed to buy all the live rights, but at least two had to be involved.

Up to four different pay channels possible

At the auction starting in mid-April, a single broadcaster could now acquire all pay-TV rights. But there are also other options. There are four different pay-TV packages in the tender. It could also be the case that from 2025 fans will need even more subscriptions than they currently do in order to see all live games in the 1st Bundesliga on TV.

Package D with the Sunday games seems tailor-made for the RTL Group. With a total of 79 live games, this gives you the opportunity to show games several times on free TV. So it’s a package that could be split between the streaming service RTL and the free-to-air channels such as RTL or Nitro.

What are Netflix, Amazon and Co doing?

The league has long been hoping that one of the major US streaming services will get involved – for example in package C with the games on Saturday at 6.30 p.m. and the Supercup. But at least Netflix has signaled clear disinterest. “We are still not part of the live sports rights game,” said sports director Gabe Spitzer to the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”.

This distinguishes the series specialist from the internet retailer Amazon, which is already showing Champions League games in this country and, for the first time this year, the tennis classic in Wimbledon. On the other hand: In England, Prime Video has already canceled the Premier League experiment after just one rights period.

Of course, the league also hopes for outsiders such as Telekom, but when it comes to betting, it primarily relies on competitors Sky and DAZN. This is particularly true for package A with the conferences that are very popular with fans, as well as for package B, for which the DFL rights experts have come up with something new: – unlike four years ago – it includes the games on Saturday at 3:30 p.m Also watch the Friday games. This package is by far the largest and contains 196 live games.

In order to attract pay providers, the DFL strategists have also “upgraded” the live packages with additional rights, as Merkel called it. “We will offer fans and our partners significantly more in the future,” said the DFL managing director. “We are therefore convinced that we can make a very attractive offer to all interested applicants.” At the end of April, after the auction, it will be clear whether this plan worked.