It was a golden age.
And they weren't that long ago.
In the 2018/19 Europa League season, Eintracht Frankfurt played intoxicating football, stormed through Europe and was only eliminated in the semi-finals after a penalty shoot-out against eventual cup winners FC Chelsea.
Millions of people watched the games in front of the television, the colorful choreos of the fans and the thrilling games of Adi Hütter's team were broadcast by the Cologne-based private broadcaster RTL in German living rooms.
Back then you had a premium product.
The odds were excellent.
This season of the Europa League looks different, however.
With TSG Hoffenheim and Bayer Leverkusen, both of which are by nature no quota giants like the participants in recent years (Eintracht Frankfurt or Borussia Mönchengladbach were among them), the two German participants were eliminated in the first round after the group stage after a surprisingly poor performance .
VfL Wolfsburg did not even qualify for it.
Nevertheless, RTL continues to show a return game every round.
Even without German participation.
That was also the case in recent years, but this has never been the case for the Cologne broadcaster at such an early stage - namely before the round of 16.
Even if the ratio of the match between Bayer Leverkusen and Young Boys Bern (0: 2) rose from 2.7 percent market share in the target group to a good 4.8 percent, according to "dwdl.de", the joy in Cologne should be limited have held.
After all: with Manchester United, Arsenal FC, AS Roma or AC Milan, some heavyweights in European football are still in competition.
In April 2019, Benfica Lisbon was a guest in the quarter-finals in Frankfurt
Source: pa / dpa / Arne Dedert
“Mediengruppe RTL has a completely free hand in selecting the live broadcasts.
Even without the Bundesliga club, the competition with many top clubs remains exciting.
Depending on the outcome of the round of 16 draw, a decision will be made as to which pairing will be the most attractive.
There is no contractual obligation to show the second leg of a pairing, ”said RTL in a statement to WELT.
Whether reporters or commentators can be on site would remain a case-by-case decision in the midst of the current pandemic, the option of being in the stadium would of course exist.
"Due to the corona, however, nothing will change in the structure of the program.
Laura Wontorra and Roman Weidenfeller will be in touch from the studio of the broadcasting center in Cologne Deutz as usual, ”RTL continued.
From this season on, RTL will no longer show Formula 1
For RTL it is the second damper of the year in the field of sports broadcasts.
When the new Formula 1 season begins in March, the station will not show the races on free TV for the first time in over 20 years after losing the rights to Sky.
It's the end of an era.
"You always close a chapter at some point, and it's nice that it was such a long and successful one in the case of Formula 1," said reporter legend Kai Ebel to WELT after his last race for the station.
And the games of the German national soccer team, which RTL also broadcasts, did not have good ratings in 2020.
According to the media service “dwdl.de”, the 1-0 win in the friendly against the Czech Republic in November, in which mainly substitutes were used due to the heavy loads, saw fewer viewers than the ZDF program “Bares für Rares”.
During the first half, the game had to leave the market leadership to the junk show and its presenter Horst Lichter.
On average, only 5.28 million viewers tuned into football.
In contrast, 5.45 million people were able to warm to “Bares for Rares”.
For ZDF this meant a market share of 16.9 percent, while RTL had 16.3 percent.
In Cologne they now hope that the next season will be better.
With the national team and especially in the European Cup.
From then on, RTL will hold the rights to all games in the Europa League and the newly created Europa Conference League.
Games from the two competitions will then be shown on RTL, the subsidiary channel Nitro and on the video and streaming portal TV Now - a total of 282 games per season.
Since 2018, the station has been showing a game of the competition on every match day on either Nitro or RTL; the streaming service DAZN is currently broadcasting all games.
The contract runs for three years.
Neither Uefa nor the RTL group commented on the rights costs.
Bankruptcies without affecting the five-year rating
However, nobody needs to be afraid that fewer German starters will be represented in the European Cup in the coming season.
The departure of Bayer Leverkusen and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim has no significant impact on the future number of European Cup participants from the Bundesliga.
Germany is in fourth place in the UEFA five-year ranking with 72.570 points and still has a large lead over fifth France (55.248).
In the Europa League, RTL now has to show games without German participation
Source: Getty Images / Michael Regan
The French have also only scored half of the points this season compared to the Bundesliga.
The top four nations each have four teams in the Champions League and up to three teams in the Europa League and the newly created Conference League.
At least some good news.