Sky 'in advanced talks over Mediaset Premium'
Sky Italia, the Italian arm of the European television giant, is said to be in advanced discussions with rival Mediaset over a deal to acquire the Italian commercial broadcaster’s pay-TV arm, according to reports in Italy.
Italy’s Il Sore 24 Ore newspaper claims that Sky is in talks over Mediaset Premium, saying that "negotiations are ongoing... and are now accelerating."
In November, Sky was linked to a possible deal following the collapse of an agreement which would have involved the outright sale of Mediaset’s pay-TV arm to the French media giant Vivendi.
Any agreement between Sky and Mediaset over the latter’s pay-TV operation could trigger a competition probe, given that it would see Sky Italia take full ownership of live rights to Italian soccer’s Serie A.
The sale of Serie A broadcast rights in Italy from 2018-19 onwards will kick off later this year, although has been delayed after AGCM, the Italian competition authority, refused to give its approval to the sales process after studying the league’s guidelines.
Mediaset Premium and Sky Italia currently pay a combined €943 million (now $1 billion) per season for the live pay-TV Serie A rights following an auction held early in 2014, which left Fox and Eurosport empty-handed.
Mediaset also holds the exclusive cross-platform rights to the Champions League in Italy from 2015-16 to 2017-18 in a deal worth €700 million, while Sky picked up the rights to the second-tier Europa League for the same period. Invitations to tender will be issued in the coming months for the rights to the European competitions from 2018-19 onwards.
Last month, Mediaset unveiled its long-term strategy to turn around its loss-making pay-TV unit, saying it would a revamp the offering and open it up to other operators.
Analysts at Exane/BNP-Paribas issued a statement to investors on Friday on Sky’s purported negotiations, saying: “The current competition between Sky and MS [Mediaset] Premium generates rights inflation and leaves both companies struggling to profitable.
“We also note that the timing of a deal would be ideal ahead of the auctions for key Serie A and Champions League rights in ’17. However, any deal would be closely examined by the antitrust, and one should remember that no single player can own the entirety of the Serie A rights so any deal would leave the door open to another player acquiring these rights (Telecom Italia).”
In April, Mediaset and Vivendi announced an agreement involving the exchange of 3.5-per-cent shareholdings in each other, and Vivendi taking 100 per cent of the share capital in Mediaset Premium.
However, the deal collapsed in July, prompting an ongoing battle between the pair and as Vivendi then looked to build up its stake.
At the end of last year, Mediaset called on Agcom, the Italian communications authority, to intervene after Vivendi increased its stake in to 25.75 per cent.