Serie A delays domestic rights tender by three weeks
By Jonathan Rest
Lega Serie A and Infront Italy, the Italian league’s appointed adviser, have delayed by three weeks the relaunch of the domestic broadcasting rights sales process, which was due to begin on Monday.
All parties will meet again in the week commencing 18 December, and in the meantime the league and Infront Italy will continue to examine the potential of a league channel to safeguard themselves against the possibility of low bids.
The previous invitation to tender, covering the 2018-19 to 2020-21 seasons, launched back in May, but attracted bids that did not come close to the reserve price of €1 billion ($1.19 billion) per season.At present, Sky Italia pays €572 million per season for rights to all 380 Serie A matches, while pay-TV rival Mediaset Premium is effectively paying €373 million for 248 matches following sub-licensing deals between the pair.
The ‘Serie A TV’ project has been drawn up with the advice of Deloitte. Details of the initiative emerged earlier this month and include:
• The creation of a company in which the league and ‘third parties’ would invest, and of which Infront would be the adviser;
• One production partner – potentially Discovery Communications – would be responsible for broadcast production of games and a ‘financial partner’ would guarantee the league €1 billion a year over a decade;
• Three channels would be set up for the different delivery methods of satellite, digital terrestrial and OTT (over-the-top) and featuring a varying number of teams and subscription prices.
A league channel has received the vocal support of some Serie A clubs and also of Marco Bogarelli, a key figure in previous Serie A rights tenders, and the former Infront Italy president.
In May, Lega Serie A and Infront put five main packages up for sale with a combined reserve price of €1 billion per season, but only attracted financial offers from pay-TV’s Sky Italia and Perform, the digital sports content and media group.
That process was duly scrapped amid an antitrust protest from Mediaset, but market conditions appear to have improved, with the commercial broadcaster signalling its intention to bid in a new auction and with an end in sight to a legal dispute with Vivendi.
Telecom Italia has also teamed up with the Vivendi-owned Canal Plus to launch a joint venture targeting sports rights, but the telecoms group only recently appointed a new chief executive (Amos Genish, previously of Vivendi), adding a further complication for the league and Infront.
Infront’s six-year, €5.94-billion minimum guarantee agreement with Lega Serie A to operate as its exclusive adviser on both domestic and international rights media rights sales runs until the end of the 2020-21 season.