Sky Italia gets court to suspend Serie A rights tender until May
A court in Milan has suspended the tender for domestic media rights to Italian soccer’s top-tier Serie A at the request of Sky Italia, the pay-television broadcaster, while the legality of the process is verified, with no verdict expected until early next month.
On 6 April, Mediapro, the Spanish sports rights agency that is responsible for selling the rights, unveiled the seven packages of rights available for the 2018-19 to 2020-21 period, and set a deadline of 21 April for bids to be received.
However, Sky Italia, an incumbent broadcaster of Serie A matches, has been questioning the validity of the agency’s deal to market the rights in the next cycle, and succeeded in securing a postponement from the Court of Milan, which is due to rule on the matter on 4 May.
The agreement between Mediapro and Serie A, valued at just €1,000 ($1,238) above the €1.05-billion annual reserve price, was approved by Italy’s antitrust watchdog, but only on condition that the agency acts as a broker, selling the rights to other broadcasters.
In a statement today, Sky Italia, which is part-owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, said: “Sky Italia, before making its offer for the television rights of the Serie A football championship, has decided to seek legal action from the Court of Milan to verify the notice of Mediapro to Italian laws, the Melandri Law and the recent indications of the Competition Authority, obtaining the suspension until May 4.
“The announcement of Mediapro being assigned Serie A’s television rights raises so many perplexities, that it’s necessary to verify the legality before presenting important offers.
“Sky emphasises that it wants to keep guaranteeing subscribers a quality product, with full journalistic and editorial autonomy in a non-discriminatory system and free competition among operators.
The broadcaster added: “Because of our wish to continue contributing to the growth of Italian football, making a great economic offer in the next few days which can guarantee the future of clubs, besides our quality creativity, editorial and journalistic autonomy, as well as competition in the industry, acting without any shortcuts, always respecting the values of a free market and all the laws, Sky has turned to the court, which, after immediately suspending Mediapro’s tender, will give its verdict on May 4.”
The new delay is likely to come as a frustration to Mediapro, Lega Serie A and the latter’s agency partner Infront Italy as they seek to conclude rights deals in good time ahead of the start of the 2018-19 season in mid-August.
Mediapro previously held off launching the tender in order to evaluate the impact of a content-sharing alliance announced recently between Sky Italia and its rival Mediaset Premium, which also holds Serie A rights.
Jaume Roures, the co-founder of Mediapro, believes this pact could impact on Serie A revenues, and the move has prompted fresh reports that the agency is still hopeful of convincing the clubs that the creation of an in-house league channel to distribute on various platforms would be the best way forward.
present, Sky pays €572 million per season for rights to all 380 Serie
A matches, while Mediaset is effectively paying €373 million for 248
matches following sub-licensing deals between the pair.
Outwith the pay-TV duo, Telecom Italia, the telecoms group, has been hamstrung by an ongoing feud with Vivendi, the French media group, while the Italian ambitions of Perform, the digital sports content and media group, seem limited after it bid unsuccessfully for a package of internet, IPTV and mobile rights in the league’s rights auction earlier this year.
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.