Sky talks up big Serie A bid as league delays vote on Mediapro offer
Sky Italia, the pay-television broadcaster, has written to Serie A promising major investment in the next domestic rights cycle, as the Italian top flight continues to mull over an in-house league TV project with Mediapro, the Spanish media rights and production agency.
Andrea Zappia, chief executive of Sky Europe, and formerly of Sky Italia, wrote to league officials: "We are your historical partners, we have recorded excellent ratings in the last championship and we are ready to support the maximum effort in terms of investments on Serie A for the future."
At present, Sky shares live rights to Serie A with DAZN, the international over-the-top service, in three-year deals worth €973 million ($1.1 billion) per season, which came into effect at the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Zappia's personal intervention comes as Serie A considers the near €1.3 billion per season offer from Mediapro for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle to set up a dedicated league channel, which could then be sold onto broadcasters, like Sky.
The top 20 clubs met yesterday but postponed a vote on the Mediapro offer until next week.
Mediapro had said that its offer - a guaranteed €1.15 billion rising to €1.28 billion with archive rights, and production and distribution costs taken into account - would expire on 10 July, but it has now extended that deadline as negotiations continue.
However, there remain concerns among some clubs over the ability of Mediapro, owned by China's Orient Hontai Capital, to finance the deal.
Mediapro's previous offer of €1.2 billion per season had not been deemed satisfactory by Serie A chief executive Luigi de Siervo last month.
Sky Italia's hand is strengthened by the fact that the Melandri Law, which governs Serie A’s collective selling of rights, requires the sale of TV rights through a public tender.
Only in the event of unsatisfactory results in the tender would the league be able to proceed with the channel initiative, albeit, according to reports in Italy, Mediapro believes it could appeal to Article 13 of the Melandri Law, which states that so long as the principles of free competition are met, the league could "create its own platform... or create audiovisual products and distribute them directly to users, through official thematic channels or through their own thematic channel, accessing the necessary technical and commercial services on fair, transparent, non-discriminatory and cost-oriented conditions."
At the start of 2018, Serie A accepted an offer from Mediapro for domestic media rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21 valued at just €1,000 above the €1.05-billion annual reserve price.
It was approved by Italy’s antitrust watchdog, but only on condition that the agency acted as a broker, selling the rights to other broadcasters.
Following a legal challenge from Sky, the Court of Milan effectively cancelled the invitation to tender launched by Mediapro, saying that the packages drawn up by the agency “would put Mediapro in a monopoly position, inhibiting the freedom of other operators and forcing them to pay more for television services.”
That ruling was upheld, on appeal, by which time the league had already terminated its deal with Mediapro on the grounds that the company had not offered the necessary financial guarantees, and subsequently awarded rights to Sky and DAZN, which only launched in Italy last year.