The move comes with incumbent rights-holders DAZN, the subscription OTT platform, and pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia among those vying for the contract.
While a meeting will be held on Thursday to potentially award the domestic rights, a postponed meeting to ratify a private equity deal with companies including CVC Capital Partners will now not take place on that day, prompting some nervousness about whether an agreement can be thrashed out.
Following private negotiations, DAZN is widely reported to be in pole position for the Serie A rights with a bid of €840m ($1.02bn) per season for seven exclusive matches per matchweek and three shared matches.
Sky is thought to have bid €750m for Package 2, one of the ‘mixed’ marketing packages offered by Lega Serie A, comprising rights across all platforms but with only co-exclusivity for internet, IPTV and mobile rights.
Existing deals with Sky and DAZN (from 2018-19 to 2020-21) are worth €973m per year.
However, should a deal be struck with DAZN on the terms reported, then revenue over and above the €840m per year would come from the sale of non-exclusive rights to the three matches. The league would also be saving a commission payment of between €50m and €60m per season to the Infront agency, its outgoing media-rights adviser.
Quoted by Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper, Torino president Urbano Cairo said: “I believe that for the development of TV rights, the League and those who conducted the negotiations have done a good job.”
He described the broadcasters’ proposals as “very interesting” and said that DAZN’s offer should be “carefully evaluated” considering that a telco – thought to be Telecom Italia – is supporting the proposal.
Cairo added: “The assembly will then decide, but it must be emphasised that if at international level we see a decrease in the value of TV rights, Italian football shows that it is on a positive trend, showing a charm, an interest, in short a vitality that other leagues have lost.”
DAZN is thought to be keen to retain premium content for its linear channel, which was launched on Sky Italia’s pay-television platform in September 2019.
In going to market at the start of January, Lega Serie A issued separate invitation to tenders for “communication operators” and “independent intermediaries” while also inviting proposals for companies looking to create a thematic Serie A channel. Both Sky and Infront are among those reported to have bid for the channel project.
Following the first-round bid deadline, Lega Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo said that Sky, DAZN, Mediapro and Eurosport had all bid in the communications operators tender.
The league’s stated aim of raising a minimum of €1.15bn per season from the sale of its domestic broadcast rights represents an 18-per-cent increase on the current deals.
In the Serie A tender, the rights for communication operators were split up into three main packages, covering exclusive satellite platform rights (Package A), exclusive digital terrestrial platform rights (Package B) and co-exclusive internet, IPTV and mobile platform rights (Package C). An optional ‘Gold’ package of ‘accessory rights’ was also made available and could only be acquired by the purchaser of (at least) one of the main packages.
Alternatively, three ‘mixed’ marketing packages were included in the ITT document. Package 1 included rights across all platforms exclusively, while Package 2 comprised rights across all platforms but with only co-exclusivity for internet, IPTV and mobile rights. Package 3 included the internet, IPTV and mobile rights held co-exclusively with the winner of Package 2.
Sky Italia was recently left reeling after its appeal against a ban on it acquiring exclusive digital media rights was thrown out by Italy’s Council of State. The decision means Sky’s ban on acquiring exclusive digital rights to sports properties is upheld.
DOUBTS OVER PRIVATE EQUITY SIGN-OFF
The launch of the domestic tender came just weeks after Serie A clubs accepted an offer from private equity companies including CVC Capital Partners for a 10-per-cent stake in a new entity that will manage its media-rights business.
However, that proposal, which is worth €1.7bn and also involves fellow private equity firm Advent International and Italy’s state-backed investor Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI), is still to be fully signed off.
Lega Serie A last night decided to once again postpone its full sign-off over the sale of the stake.
That move might now put the deal at risk, sources close to the matter told Reuters.
It had been expected that the clubs would finally sign off on the deal on Thursday but the issue is now not part of the assembly meeting agenda and no new date has been set. One source told Reuters that a new meeting would take place next week.
It is claimed that the private equity consortium last week asked the league to give its final response to the proposed deal, threatening to walk away and refusing to negotiate further. The strong response – given market conditions – to the Serie A domestic rights tender is thought to have emboldened some clubs that argue against the sale of equity.
Issues around the commercialisation of archive rights are thought to be among the sticking points.
During a vote held last October, the CVC-Advent-FSI consortium beat a rival offer from private equity duo Bain Capital and NB Renaissance Partners, along with a revised bid submitted by US investment firm Fortress. In September, clubs in Serie A unanimously approved the formation of the new media company.