Six firms tussle for Serie A contract but Wanda and Mediapro offer channel option
By Jonathan Rest
Serie A has received six binding offers from private equity firms interested in creating a media company with Italian soccer's top flight, while there are two separate bids on the table, from China's Wanda Sports and Spain's Mediapro, for the establishment of a league channel.
Serie A and its advisor Lazard set a deadline of 27 July - extended from 24 July - for the host of interested parties to formulate their offers.Private equity firms and investment banks have been circling the league for months and in the end six binding offers came from UK-based CVC Capital Partners, USA's Bain Capital, Advent, the US private equity group in partnership with Italy's FSI, General Atlantic, TPG Capital and Apollo Global Management.
According to reports in Italy, the six offers value Serie A in the range of €12 billion ($14.1 billion) to €15 billion. They would own no more than 15 per cent in a new company that would control the league's media rights for the next decade.
CVC had entered into exclusive negotiations with the league in May over an offer to acquire 20 per cent of any new company established, in a deal worth some €2.2 billion. That negotiating period has now ended.
However, separately, Wanda, which owns the Infront agency, and Mediapro, the media rights and production agency, have offered €1.5 billion and €1.3 billion respectively per season to operate and distribute an in-house league channel.
That model is favoured by Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis, who has presented research to clubs that there is an audience of 144 million people worldwide potentially interested in watching the league's matches.
He believes that having even just a small percentage of subscribers (he estimated four million) paying between €30 and €36 per month would bring in more money per season (€1.44 billion and €1.72 billion at those two ranges) than at present.
Under his framework, the clubs would retain 90 per cent of the revenue, with 10 per cent going to the channel partner.
Current domestic rights to Serie A are held by pay-television operator Sky Italia and over-the-top subscription service DAZN in three-year deals worth €973 million running to the end of the 2020-21 campaign. The IMG agency handles the international media and other commercial rights in an agreement worth more than €360 million per year.
Infront Italy is already contracted to Serie A, with its six-year, €5.94 billion minimum guarantee agreement to act as the league's exclusive adviser on both domestic and international media rights expiring next year.
Mediapro appears to have reignited its interest in a Serie A channel after talks with the league over a deal worth €1.28 billion per season from 2021-22 to 2023-24 stalled late last year.
The 20 Serie A clubs are due to meet in person for the first time since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in a Milan hotel on Thursday to discuss the offers, with the league keen to launch its domestic rights tender for the next cycle in the coming months.