Serie A chief de Siervo proposes FTA slot as part of TV rights solution
Luigi de Siervo, the chief executive of Italian soccer’s top-tier Serie A, has raised the possibility of regular live matches on free-to-air television in the next broadcasting rights cycle.
The league is set to conduct a vote this week to decide on a domestic rights partner for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 period, with incumbents DAZN, the international OTT subscription platform, and Sky, the leading pay-TV network, vying for the contract.
However, in order to ensure wider exposure de Siervo can see value in a weekly live FTA game.
At present, Sky shows seven matches per round and DAZN the other three, while highlights are available on public-service broadcaster Rai.
Speaking on the ‘Campioni del mondo’ show on Rai Radio2, the Serie A chief said: “Among the hypothesis on the table there is also the possibility that a match will go free-to-air, a proposal that would be revolutionary. It should be included in the new package, possibly for a Monday night match, but it is a subject that needs to be studied carefully.”
Serie A postponed from last week a vote on the allocation of the rights, with DAZN having submitted what it believes is the strongest commercial bid.
The initial bids by the 28 January deadline from DAZN, Sky, US media giant Discovery and Spanish media rights agency Mediapro for the next three-year cycle did not meet the €1.15 billion ($1.4 billion) per season the league is seeking.
DAZN has offered €840 million per season for the package of seven exclusive matches and three co-exclusive matches per week, while Sky's offer is around €750 million for all matches and another €50 million to €70 million in the event of the creation of a league OTT channel.
It has been reported that DAZN would be looking to team up with Italian telecoms giant TIM for the three co-exclusive matches per week.
At present, Serie A brings in €973 million per season for its domestic media rights - €780 million from Sky and €193 million from DAZN.
On the allocation of the rights, de Siervo said: “We are in the middle of the water. Two operators remain in contention and their projects are under the consideration of the [club] presidents.
“The economic aspects are being studied in depth, but the editorial and distribution aspects are also important, and are being carefully evaluated and verified. The key element in the choice will be the guarantee that everyone can comfortably watch the matches on the sofa at home.”
The debate comes at the same time that the Serie A clubs prepare to approve a deal with a consortium led by CVC, the private equity firm, to invest €1.7 billion for a 10 per cent stake in a new entity to be set up in partnership with the league to control media rights.
Like all sports leagues and competition organisers, Serie A is seeking the best possible broadcasting and commercial deals to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
De Siervo said last September that, at that point, Covid-19 had cost the league and its clubs €500 million in lost revenue with media rights, sponsorship and ticketing income all impacted, as the completion of the 2019-20 season was delayed and spectators were excluded or limited in number.
The Serie A chief claims that efforts to attract additional funding are being compromised by the state of infrastructure, notably stadiums, in Italy.
He said: “In other realities, not just football, the great returns occur on matchdays. The facilities, stadiums, if adequate and modern, are a lifeblood, increasing the time and money that spectators and fans devote to the match event.
“The hope of the whole world of sport is that we will go beyond major events to overcome the quibbles of bureaucracy. Our facilities are not adequate and risk remaining empty even when they reopen.”