The AGCM, Italy’s antitrust and competition authority, has fined international sports streaming platform DAZN and telecoms firm TIM more than €8 million ($8.95 million) over the pair’s agreement relating to coverage of domestic soccer’s top-flight Serie A.
DAZN will pay the majority of the fine, over €7.2 million, with TIM shelling out almost €761,000.
It comes following an investigation by the AGCM into TIM’s three-year deal with DAZN to exclusively distribute its coverage of Serie A after the streaming service landed the bulk of domestic live rights in 2021.
The tie-up prompted a backlash from some operators in Italy, with pay-TV broadcaster Sky Italia filing an appeal with the AGCM, claiming the deal was “illegitimate” and strengthened TIM’s already dominant position in the broadband market.
The AGCM then opened an investigation looking to ascertain whether the agreement restricted competition from other telecom operators.
Following its investigation, the AGCM has now said the original agreement granted exclusivity in favor of TIM, removing the possibility of DAZN striking partnerships with the telco’s competitors.
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It added that the deal could have had harmful effects on the competitive dynamics of the connectivity services markets and the retail sale of pay-TV services.
The AGCM said: “In fact, by virtue of the agreement, TIM has marketed a bundle offer not replicable by its competitors, including the TimVision and DAZN contents and the connectivity service.
“Furthermore, it was an offer likely to deprive TIM’s competitors, active in the electronic communications markets, of the possibility of associating particularly value content to their own connectivity services, such as the rights to watch Serie A matches for the three-year period 2021-2024, limiting the ability to exercise competitive pressure against TIM itself.”
The deal between DAZN and TIM was made shortly after DAZN secured rights to most Serie A fixtures in 2021 in a €2.5 billion deal that sees it hold exclusive rights to seven matches per match week and co-exclusive rights to the three matches for the 2021-22 to 2023-24 cycle.
The remaining three matches are shared with Sky Italia in a deal worth €262.5 million over three years.
TIM agreed to provide DAZN with the financing of around €1 billion (€340 million annually) to support the platform's bid for Serie A rights – about 40% of DAZN’s total payment to the league – in return for a distribution package. The deal was deemed legitimate by AGCM after an initial probe.
However, the deal did not reach the targets that TIM set, and the pair agreed to restructure its partnership in August last year, which eliminated its exclusivity clause.
DAZN and Sky Italia then struck a new deal for the DAZN app launch on Sky Italia, with all 10 weekly matches available via the app and new linear channel ZONA DAZN.
Meanwhile, Italy’s upper house Senate has unanimously supported a law against online content piracy – a move which has been welcomed by Italian sports media companies.
The law only needs to be signed off by the country's president Sergio Mattarella before it is published in the Gazzetta Ufficiale.
The law comes after DAZN urged the Italian parliament to quickly introduce a new anti-piracy bill following the release of a report highlighting the fact illegal sports streaming was costing the industry around €290 million per year.
The bill gives the communications regulatory body AGCOM powers to shut down any site that illegally broadcasts content within 30 minutes. It also increases the penalties dolled out for those who make copyrighted content available and users consuming the content.
End users can risk being fined up to €5,000 and up to three years in prison.
In a statement, Serie A president Lorenzo said: “The law unanimously approved by parliament is a fundamental measure to protect copyright and finally obscure pirated sites in a timely manner.
“It significantly improved the regulatory framework that regulates sports television rights and increases their value.
“I would like to thank, on behalf of all Lega Serie A, the government for the attention and sensitivity shown to such an important issue which has been waiting for a solution for some time, and all parliament, in particular, the commissions involved for their work and commitment in achieving the goal quickly.
“The measure adopted was necessary and is extremely timely because it comes at an important stage in the negotiations for the assignment of television rights for our league.”
Serie A is currently negotiating a new domestic deal with three broadcasters interested in the rights. DAZN and Sky Italia’s deal is due to end after the upcoming season.
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