Mediapro granted Serie A rights but only as a broker
Mediapro, the Spanish rights agency, has been given the green light to press ahead with its acquisition of domestic rights to Italian soccer's top-tier Serie A, but warned it must sell them on to broadcasters.
The proposed deal, valued at just €1,000 ($1,235) above the €1.05-billion annual reserve price for the 2018-19 to 2020-21 seasons, went before the AGCM, the Italian antitrust regulator, on Wednesday, and a decision was not expected until next week.
However, the regulator ruled early, approving the contract, but warning Mediapro to sell the rights to other entities “in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory way”
The AGCM added: "The authority has emphasised the need to prevent the independent intermediary [Mediapro] from carrying out activities that determine the establishment of competitive relations with communication operators. Therefore, no initiatives should be undertaken that imply the assumption of editorial responsibility... At the same time, the Authority deems it necessary for the sub-licensees to be granted the broadest entrepreneurial and publishing initiative in the packaging of individual audiovisual products."
The regulator promised to "intervene" if Mediapro does not act as an intermediary of the rights going forward.
The approval from the AGCM effectively ends any plans by Lega Serie A and Infront Italy, its agency adviser, to launch an in-house league channel.
The league, Infront and Mediapro entered a negotiation phase in late January after the Spanish firm’s €950-million-per-season offer was rejected, with the approved proposal accepted a week later by Serie A club presidents.
Mediapro bid for the ‘Global Package’ contained in an invitation to tender for independent financial intermediaries issued by the league and Infront after bids from broadcasters (in a separate tender process) were rejected.
Lawyers for Sky Italia, the pay-TV operator and incumbent rights-holder, have argued that Mediapro’s offer was made in the invitation to tender aimed at financial intermediaries, whereas it “would not operate as an independent intermediary but as a proper communications operator,” given the potential sale of advertising to league channels and their distribution to third parties.
At present, Sky Italia pays €572 million per season for rights to all 380 Serie A matches, while Mediaset Premium, the pay-TV digital terrestrial broadcaster, is effectively paying €373 million for 248 matches following sub-licensing deals between the pair.
The previous invitation to tender was launched in May last year, but only attracted bids from Sky Italia and Perform, the digital sports content and media group, that did not come close to the reserve price of €1 billion per season.
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.