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By ESPN Staff

Bundesliga opens media rights auction

FRANKFURT, Nov 1 (Reuters) - Germany's Bundesliga hopes to raise significantly more from the sale of media rights to future soccer seasons than the 300 million euros (£200 million) it made this year after 35 companies applied to join the auction.

'If we read the signs right, and considering that there will be up to 35 bidders, we have reason to believe that we will clearly raise more,' Bundesliga managing director Christian Seifert told a news conference on Tuesday.

Seifert unveiled more than 200 rights packages on offer to television, radio, Internet and telecoms companies for up to three seasons starting in 2006/07.

One possible scenario would see leading Bundesliga Saturday afternoon games broadcast on live television, possibly pay TV, with no free TV replay until more than six hours after kickoff.

Currently, public station ARD broadcasts a two-hour highlights show 45 minutes after the final whistle.

Such a scenario would give Premiere, Germany's only pay-TV broadcaster, the possibility to win more exclusivity - for which it has said it is willing to pay more than the 180 million euros it paid to show live Bundesliga games this season.

Seifert said any party wanting more exclusivity for their coverage would have to make an offer high enough to compensate the Bundesliga for lower advertising and sponsorship earnings due to the smaller audiences.

'We've said more than once that if someone wants more exclusivity from the Bundesliga then they'll have to make it worth the Bundesliga's while,' he said.

Seifert said the association aimed to make a decision by Christmas but could open a second bidding period after the current one expires on Dec. 1 if it did not receive enough suitable offers.

Of the 35 parties registered to bid, eight were TV companies, 16 were agencies and the others included online and telecoms firms, he said. He added that eight of the companies concerned were listed, but declined to name any.

Apart from Premiere, commercial broadcasters RTL and ProSiebenSat.1 have said they would take part in the auction.

Seifert said the soccer association had to balance the considerations of fans, clubs and media organisations, and would not necessarily accept the highest bids in all cases.

'We're in a very emotional area here,' he said. 'We have to find a solution that satisfies all three as far as possible.'