Mediaset lands World Cup rights In Italy; Rai closes on Champions League
Mediaset, the commercial television network in Italy, today announced it has completed the acquisition of exclusive rights to next year's Fifa World Cup, while public-service broadcaster Rai is said to be closing in on free-to-air coverage of the Uefa Champions League, the top European clubs competition.
It will be the first time that Rai will not show the World Cup in Italy, but the national team's failure to qualify for the tournament for the first time since 1958 meant there was a significant drop in interest in the rights, which had yet to be sold when the national team lost a two-legged play-off to Sweden last month.
It is understood that Mediaset will pay around €78 million ($93 million) to show all 64 games from the 2018 World Cup in Russia across its Canale 5, Italia 1 and Rete 4 channels.
That compares with the €335 million Fifa generated from the sale of rights in Italy to the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, albeit the national team went out in the first round of both events.
In September, interested parties were invited to bid for the Italian media rights to the 2018 and 2022 Fifa World Cups in a process overseen by MP & Silva, the international sports rights agency.
Sky Italia, the Italian pay-television broadcaster, held live rights to all 64 matches at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, while Rai retained rights to show 25 matches from each tournament.
Earlier this month, Mediaset, which has never previously shown the World Cup in Italy, finalised a deal, worth just under €35 million, for the rights in Spain to the 2018 tournament, and will televise matches on the Telecinco and Cuatro channels in the country.
Mediaset has been able to free up money in its Italian budget after this year losing out to Sky in the race for Champions League rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21.
Mediaset pays about €227 million per season in the current three-year cycle, but in June Sky emerged victorious in the bidding for the next contract. It is claimed that Sky will pay between €270 million and €290 million per season for the rights, and the pay-TV broadcaster also retained rights to the second-tier Europa League.
According to reports in Italy, Rai has almost finalised a deal to bring the Champions League back to its screens, with one game per match week on Rai 1.
Rai lost free-to-air rights to the Champions League to Mediaset for the 2012-13 to 2014-15 seasons, having provided live coverage since the 2006-07 season.
From 2018-19, the Champions League is set to feature more Italian teams than at present, with four automatic places reserved for the country following changes to the qualifying structure.