Rai at loggerheads with sports minister over prospect of FTA Serie A
Usigrai, the union of journalists at Rai, the Italian public-service broadcaster, has hit out at the growing calls for Serie A matches to be shown for free on pay-television platforms when the domestic soccer league resumes after the coronavirus-enforced hiatus.
Italy's sports minister, Vincenzo Spadafora, has led the calls for a 'Diretta Gol’ show – a simultaneous live broadcast of games, where coverage moves from stadium to stadium - on a free-to-air basis through Serie A's domestic rights-holders Sky Italia and DAZN, the over-the-top subscription service.
In Germany, Sky Deutschland produces the ‘Konferenz’ for the Bundesliga - rolling coverage where all games from the main kickoff point each weekend (usually 2:30pm on a Saturday afternoon) are shown in bursts, with one single broadcast going from one game to the other live.
Sky has made this coverage free for the first two weekends of the Bundesliga’s return, and Spadafora wants a similar decision to be taken in Italy.
He made the suggestion in an interview with Rai Sport, noting: "We should definitely think about it, as it will avoid gatherings in public places and bars."
However, the broadcaster's journalist body has claimed that such a measure would give an “unfair advantage” to the pay-TV providers, as they would receive a much higher audience share than normal by opening up their channels and decrypting them.
It has even suggested that an amendment to the Melandri Law, which governs the collective selling of media rights in the country, would be needed and said that Rai should be able to carry such a 'Diretta Gol' programme domestically, as it already does on Rai International to Italians living overseas.
The union said: "If you… open the encrypted TV rights and authorise the transmission, then you must also open these rights to other operators. Otherwise, an unfair advantage would be given to pay-TV, which would have a potential audience multiplied with clear advantage from an advertising and sales point of view.
"The proposal of the Minister of Sport only makes sense if it redistributes the rights to all, otherwise there would be a serious violation of the rules…. which would cause enormous damage to Rai."
Vittorio Di Trapani, general secretary of Usigrai, added: "So those who own the rights go from a potential audience of 5 million subscribers to a potential of 21 million? With all that derives as an advantage in terms of image and value of the commercials."
Last month, Spadafora said he would push for free-to-air coverage of Serie A matches when the league resumes without fans, albeit he admitted it was a "very thorny issue" that had previously resulted in a "heated confrontation to say the least with the chief executive of Sky and the president of Lega Serie A."
Sky and DAZN hold Serie A rights in three-year deals worth €973 million ($1.06 billion) per season that came into effect at the start of the 2018-19 campaign.
Serie A has been suspended since 9 March, but the league hopes to return on either 13 or 20 June.
According to financial consultancy firm KPMG, Serie A would lose between €550 million and €650 million in total if no further matches were played this year, with lost revenue from broadcasting, sponsorship and match day income.