FREE | Italy market report, 2019

In the latest interactive monthly data report, SportBusiness Media analyses the media-rights landscape in Italy.

Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report is available with our Rights Tracker tool – click here for more information.

For the full data report, click here.

Declining market

Between 2017 and 2019, Italy is expected to have fallen from being the third-largest media-rights market to the fifth largest. According to the 2018 SportBusiness Consulting Global Report, media rights in Italy are set to generate about $2.01bn (€1.8bn) in 2019, accounting for 4.1 per cent of the total global sports-rights market.

From 2014 to 2016 the Italian media-rights market had grown by 13 per cent, before going into reverse from 2017. It fell by 2 per cent that year and 4 per cent in 2018. It is forecast to fall by 1 per cent in 2019.

Among the top 10 global markets, Italy is the only one where the total value of media rights fell during that period, with the value of the market projected to remain below 2017 levels through to 2021.

Italy’s Serie A, the country’s top-tier football league, dominates the Italian media-rights landscape with about 56-per-cent market share. But a decrease in dollar-terms in the value of its domestic rights in that cycle, from the 2015-16 to 2017-18 cycle, impacted the whole Italian media-rights market.

Pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia has maintained its position as the market leader in 2019, with a total of 19 properties.

Streaming service DAZN launched in the country in August 2018, making the market significantly more competitive with Sky Italia facing far stronger competition for some of the top rights.

Two important players, premium sports channel Fox Sports and commercial and pay-television group Mediaset have changed their business strategies, which led to their sports rights portfolios massively declining. The former decided to close its channels in June 2018 while the latter lost its Serie A rights for the first time since its launch in 2004 and decided to focus on its ad-funded free-to-air channels.

Top properties

Negotiations for the current cycle of rights for Italy’s top property, Serie A, have been full of controversies, with the Spanish agency Mediapro at the centre of a conflict with Sky Italia. Ultimately, Sky and DAZN acquired Serie A rights for the cycle 2018-21, registering an increase in euro-terms (the original currency of the deal) of about 1 per cent from the previous cycle’s total fee. The values of the other top 10 rights in Italy have all risen in both euro and dollar terms, except for the Uefa Europa League. The latter’s value fell about 20 per cent, while the value of the Champions League increased by a similar amount.

Sky had to compete unexpectedly against Mediaset to secure Champions League and Europa League rights, from 2018-19 to 2020-21.

It also had to fight hard to hang on to some of its other core properties following DAZN’s entry into the market. Sky held off competition from DAZN for motorcycling’s MotoGP with a new deal from 2019 to 2021, paying approximately 60 per cent up on the yearly fee it paid in the previous five-year deal, from 2014 to 2018.

Click on each property logo to filter historical media-rights value information.

Mediaset’s strategy shift

Mediaset has experienced a lot of change in the last two years. After controversy with the French media group Vivendi over the sale of Mediaset Premium in 2017, Mediaset lost out on both Serie A and Champions League rights. In losing both its key properties the media company decided to drastically change its sports rights strategy.

Its investment priorities have shifted back from Premium to its ad-funded free-to-air channels. In 2018, Mediaset closed its Premium Sport channel and redesigned the Mediaset Premium service as a home to third-party sports channels, such as Eurosport and DAZN until the end of the 2018-19 season.

Mediaset has decided to focus its sports-rights investments mostly on its free-to-air channels. The shift in strategy allowed Mediaset to evaluate each property’s rights in an opportunistic way rather than competing heavily with Sky Italia for top-of-the-market rights. This enabled it to decide which free-to-air rights would generate the most viewership and, ultimately, the most advertising revenue.

It acquired free-to-air rights to the 2018 Fifa World Cup rights. Following this, Mediaset acquired the free-to-air rights for the Uefa European Qualifiers and Nations League matches (not involving Italy’s men national team which are broadcast by Rai). In July this year, it finalised a deal with Sky Italia for the free-to-air rights to one Champions League match per week, both semi-finals, the final and the European Super Cup for the 2018-21 cycle.

DAZN steps up

DAZN first made a mark on the Italian market in 2015 by acquiring minor rights to the Serie B, Italy’s second-tier football league. Then prior to the launch of its platform in August 2018, the platform embarked on a major rights grab.

In June 2018, DAZN made its single-most important acquisition to grab rights to three Serie A matches per match-week. It also acquired the rights to more top football properties, such as Spain’s LaLiga, France’s Ligue 1 and Italy’s second-tier Serie B, taking advantage of Fox Sports and Mediaset’s issues.

DAZN also acquired most of Fox Sports’ football inventory, including the 2019 edition of the Africa Cup of Nations and the 2018 editions of the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana competitions.

In addition, it has bought the rights to the National Football League and Major League Baseball, taking over respectively from Mediaset and Fox Sports and creating a strong US sports offering.

Click on each property logo to filter historical media-rights value information.

Since the beginning of its operations in Italy, DAZN has followed the pattern it adopted in its international expansion with a direct-to-consumer OTT-only service, sealing important deals with other platforms such as Sky Italia and Mediaset to secure additional distribution.

However, in August this year, Sky Italia struck an agreement with DAZN which, in addition to a series of dedicated offers for viewing streamed content, included the launch of a channel for the OTT service on Sky’s television platform. This deal was a first-of-its-kind for DAZN, and it was followed by a North American distribution deal.

DAZN also agreed a carriage deal in the Italian market with US media company Discovery for its international sports broadcaster Eurosport, excluding the Eurosport Player OTT service.

Mediapro’s Serie A return

Despite the controversies of the previous Serie A right cycle, Mediapro decided to approach the rights-holder again in June this year with an offer for the domestic rights to the property for the next two cycles, covering the six seasons from 2021-22 to 2026-27.

Mediapro’s first cycle offer, for the 2021-24 cycle, is only eight-per-cent more than the minimum seasonal fee the league currently earns for the 2018-21 cycle, but it would be below the total amount if Sky and DAZN hit performance targets.

Mediapro advanced its offer only on the basis the league fails to secure an adequate amount for its rights in a competitive tender process, meaning the league would be in a strong bargaining position. Lega Serie A could now have a new, strong reserve price to start the tender for the rights and broadcasters bidding for the rights would know that failing to hit the league’s targets would lead straight to the creation of a league channel.

The decision on the Mediapro offer appears to be critical to Serie A’s future and it could also have a major impact on the whole of the Italian media-rights market. With a dedicated Serie A channel, Sky and DAZN would have to revisit their strategies, which strongly revolve around Serie A rights and fight harder to retain the other key rights in the Italian market starting from 2021. This could ultimately increase the overall value of the market.

In the French market, where Mediapro was able to acquire part of the top-tier French Ligue 1, there was a substantial increase in the media-rights value of some of its other top properties, including an increase by about 166 per cent for MotoGP and by about 50 per cent for Formula One.

Most recent

Tech giant Amazon’s acquisition of UK rights to the Autumn Nations Cup competition has triggered a debate over whether the company will now embark upon a concerted push into rugby.

The surprise emergence of free-to-air broadcaster KBS as a bidder for German Bundesliga rights in South Korea generated some competition during the 2020-22 sales process, but not enough to stave off a dip in value.

Chinese internet giant Tencent picked up the English Premier League rights for the 2020-21 season at a massive discount compared to the value of the terminated deal with previous rights-holder PPTV.

European Handball Federation club competition rights have decreased in value in several key markets, with incumbents dropping out to leave tough market conditions for seller Infront.