AGCOM clears Serie A rights tender guidelines, but dedicated channel outside its remit
AGCOM, the Italian communications regulator, has approved the guidelines for the sales process for media rights to Italian soccer’s top-tier Serie A for the next cycle from 2021-22 to 2023-24.
The watchdog ruled that the criteria laid down for the period in question do not impact on competition, albeit the individual packages will have to be further evaluated when the formal invitation to tender is being prepared.
AGCOM expressed hope that the packages of rights “stimulate competition in the pay-TV market, allowing more operators to be able to broadcast a large part of Serie A,” and would “develop competing and non-complementary offers to end consumers.”
Pay-television operator Sky and subscription streaming platform DAZN presently hold the premium rights to Serie A in a three-year deal worth €973 million ($1.07 billion) that runs until the end of the 2020-21 season, and both are expected to be leading contenders for the rights in the next cycle.
However, the league is also weighing up an offer from Mediapro, the Spanish media rights and production agency, to establish an in-house league channel that could be distributed to broadcast and streaming operators.
AGCOM did not issue a judgement on the proposed channel, stating that it “falls outside the evaluation of the guidelines which exclusively concern the marketing of the rights and not the creation of a distribution platform.”
Mediapro submitted its final offer to Serie A - €1.283 billion per season for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle - on 4 November, but a vote of the 20 top-flight clubs has been postponed numerous times.
Although the two parties have traded legal threats, new Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino and executive Luigi de Siervo are set to reopen talks with Mediapro.
The league must still offer its TV rights through a public tender as stipulated by the Melandri Law, which governs the collective selling of rights, and Sky and DAZN know they must at least match the Mediapro offer if they wish to retain the rights.
On the prevention of the sale of exclusive internet rights, AGCOM stated that competition rules can be respected “as long as the provider and assignee of a package can waive the exclusivity for the internet platform only.”
It has been reported in recent days that Serie A is considering including an early Saturday kick-off slot in its scheduling in the next rights cycle in a bid to further tap Asian audiences.
Dal Pino is said to be giving consideration to having one match start at 12.30pm (CET) or 1.30pm on Saturdays from 2021-22, so that it airs at prime-time in Asia, a practice that has become common in England's Premier League and Spain's LaLiga.