One-time likely Serie A partner Mediapro reemerges in private equity bid
By Jonathan Rest
Mediapro, the Spanish media rights and production agency, could be involved in Serie A's broadcast future after all, having teamed up with the private equity firms Bain Capital and NB Renaissance on their bid to set up a media company with Italian soccer's top flight.
Earlier this month, the 20 Serie A clubs unanimously agreed to the creation of a company that would manage the league's broadcasting rights over the next decade, and to outside investment from private equity, but have yet to choose a a specific partner.
US firm Bain and Italy's NB have proposed taking a 10 per cent stake in the new company valued at €1.35 billion ($1.58 billion), and are understood to be up against a consortium of three private equity firms - CVC Capital Partners, Advent and Italian state-backed fund FSI - whose deal, also for 10 per cent, is valued at €1.625 billion.
Ahead of the September 30 date for final offers to be presented and the 6 October general assembly at which the winning party may well be selected, it has now emerged that the Bain-NB offer involves Mediapro, which would produce the new channel.
Marco Bogarelli, a key figure in previous Serie A rights tenders, and the former Infront Italy president, has been advising Mediapro Italy, while earlier this month the agency appointed experienced broadcast executive Federico de Mojana as its head of development in the country.
Mediapro said at the time that de Mojana would be "in charge of strengthening the group's presence in the Italian market and identifying synergies and new business opportunities in the region."
Mediapro and Serie A spent more than six months in 2019 on the creation of a proposed in-house TV channel, with the agency offering €1.283 billion per season for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle in early November.
However, a vote of the top-flight clubs on the offer was postponed numerous times, with concerns said to revolve around Mediapro's financial strength and bank guarantees.
At the start of 2018, Serie A accepted an offer from Mediapro for domestic media rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21 valued at just €1,000 above the €1.05-billion annual reserve price.
It was approved by Italy’s antitrust watchdog, but only on condition that the agency acted as a broker, selling the rights to other broadcasters.
Following a legal challenge from Sky, the Court of Milan effectively cancelled the invitation to tender launched by Mediapro, saying that the packages drawn up by the agency “would put Mediapro in a monopoly position, inhibiting the freedom of other operators and forcing them to pay more for television services.”
That ruling was upheld, on appeal, by which time the league had already terminated its deal with Mediapro on the grounds that the company had not offered the necessary financial guarantees, and subsequently awarded rights to pay-TV's Sky and over-the-top subscription service DAZN in three-year deals worth €973 million per year that run to the end of the 2020-21 campaign.
The IMG agency handles international media and other commercial rights to Serie A in an agreement worth more than €360 million per annum.
Infront Italy’s six-year, €5.94 billion minimum guarantee agreement to act as Serie A's exclusive adviser on both domestic and international media rights expires next year.