Offers lodged for Serie A rights as Qatari bank denies 'bid'
By Martin Ross
Lega Serie A and its agency partner Infront Italy will begin a period of private negotiation with broadcasters after bids were submitted today for domestic media rights to Italian soccer’s top flight.
A total of five companies are said to have lodged offers by today’s lunchtime deadline, including incumbent rights-holders Sky Italia and Mediaset Premium, the pay-TV rivals, along with Perform, the digital sports content and media group.
The league, its clubs and Infront held a meeting this afternoon to decide the next steps, and the process will now move to a negotiation phase after bids failed to match the target price of €1.05 billion ($1.29 billion) per season.
News of the bids came as the International Bank of Qatar flatly denied that it had submitted a lucrative offer for Serie A rights over the next decade.
As with the tender process that was scrapped last year, Lega Serie A offered five main packages to the market (see table below), and offering exclusivity via technology platform: satellite; digital terrestrial; and internet/IPTV/mobile.
The leading offers submitted today across the different packages total just under €800 million per season, according to various reports.
Sky is reported to be the sole bidder for the satellite rights included in Package A, which has a reserve price of €260 million per season, and the broadcaster has also lodged a bid for the digital rights offered in Package C, according to various reports.
Package B, the digital terrestrial package with a reserve price of €260 million per season, has, unsurprisingly, attracted an offer from Mediaset, while Perform, owner of OTT platform DAZN, and Telecom Italia, the telecoms group, have both bid for Package C, sources told Reuters.
Lega Serie A and Infront face an uphill task to meet the €160 million per season reserve price for the internet, IPTV and mobile rights contained in Package C. That figure represents a €40-million (annual) drop on the combined reserve price of €200 million per season for two internet and mobile packages offered last time round, a figure that sole bidder Perform did not come close to matching.
Package B is also said to have attracted an offer from Italia Way, while Sky is understood to have submitted bids for as many as four packages, including the D1 and D2 packages.
At present, Sky Italia pays €572 million per season for rights to all 380 Serie A matches, while pay-TV rival Mediaset Premium is effectively paying €373 million for 248 matches following sub-licensing deals between the pair.
The previous invitation to tender launched in May last year, but only attracted bids from Sky Italia and Perform that did not come close to the reserve price of €1 billion per season.
|Main Serie A rights packages (for broadcasters) from 2018-19 to 2020-21|
|Package||Platform||Description||Minimum asking price (per season)|
|A||Satellite||Rights to home and away matches of eight clubs, including Juventus, Napoli, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina. Total of 248 games.||€260m|
|C||Internet, IPTV and mobile||€160m|
|D1||All audiovisual platforms||Rights to 87 matches (63 exclusive and 24 covered by packages A, B and C). Two matches in this package also in D2.||€144m|
|D2||All audiovisual platforms||Rights to 95 matches (71 exclusive and 24 covered by packages A, B and C). Two matches in this package also in D1.||€166m|
|Source: Lega Serie A|
Packages A, B and C each contain the matches of leading clubs Juventus, Napoli, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina (plus two other clubs), and total 248 games each.
The ‘D1’ and ‘D2’ packages comprise exclusive rights to the other 12 Serie A clubs, and can be bought across any audiovisual platform.
In addition to the five main packages, there are three ‘optional’ packages available, namely the ABC Platinum Package, carrying a €50 million-per-season minimum fee tag, plus the D1 and D2 Platinum Packages, which both have an annual base price of €5 million. Ancillary rights, such as footage of the changing rooms, pre-match, half-time and full-time interviews, are included in the ABC Platinum Package.
Lega Serie A and Infront issued two separate invitation to tender documents earlier this month, with the second aimed at independent financial intermediaries and seen as a back-up option in the event of disappointing offers.
Should no rights be awarded to broadcasters, then the league and its agency adviser are free to assess any offer from financial bodies.
Qatari denial The credibility of a recent ‘bid’ from the International Bank of Qatar was today called into question, however, with the Doha-based financial group denying that it had been in negotiations over an offer.
Media reports surfaced in Italy at the end of last year, claiming that the bank was considering a 10-year, €13-billion proposal for Serie A broadcast rights.
Following a report claiming that IBQ was considering an improved offer, Myriam Abou Haidar, the bank’s marketing and corporate communications manager, retorted: “IBQ provides core banking services in the State of Qatar and has never engaged in any form of acquisition of broadcasting rights related to any sport activity, therefore we were utterly surprised of the news. Consequently, IBQ refutes having ever offered any form of bid to Lega Serie A.
“In fact IBQ has never established any contact with Lega Serie A in any respect whatsoever and has, as a banking institution, no direct or indirect interest whatsoever in Lega’s broadcasting rights or any other broadcasting rights. The news is unfortunately groundless, misleading and fake.”
Lega Serie A and Infront’s previous invitation to tender was scrapped amid an antitrust protest from Mediaset.
The league and Infront Italy have also been working on plans to launch a league channel to safeguard themselves against the possibility of low bids once again.
Infront’s six-year, €5.94-billion minimum guarantee agreement with Lega Serie A to operate as its exclusive adviser on both domestic and international rights media rights sales runs until the end of the 2020-21 season.