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DAZN agrees Serie A payments, antitrust move scuppers free-to-air plans

DAZN, the OTT streaming operator, has reached an agreement with Lega Serie A over the structure of its remaining payments this season for domestic broadcast rights to Italian football’s top flight, SportBusiness understands.

DAZN has been in talks with the league in recent weeks and has now struck a deal over the payments to be made.

Having not made its instalment payment in May as Serie A remained suspended amid the Covid-19 shutdown, it is understood that DAZN will now split the instalment in two payments, with one to be paid by June 27 and the second by July 20.

Action from Serie A resumed at the weekend after a suspension of over three months.

IMG, the agency that holds the league’s international rights, has also been reported to be closing in on an agreement with the league over remaining payments for the 2019-20 campaign. Discussions with Sky Italia have been far less fruitful, however, with the league said to have filed an injunction against the pay-television broadcaster in a bid to claw back rights fee payments.

Domestic live rights to Serie A games are held by Sky and DAZN in deals worth €973m ($1.09bn) per season, while IMG’s international rights deal is worth just over €380m per season for international broadcast rights, club archive rights, betting rights, a marketing spend and fee for access to the broadcast signal.

DAZN holds live rights to three fixtures per match week, giving it a total of 114 matches per season in a contract worth €193.3m per season.

Antitrust ruling scuppers free-to-air Serie A

Meanwhile, the AGCM, Italy’s antitrust authority, rejected plans for two Serie A matches to be shown live on a free-to-air basis as the league returned at the weekend.

Vincenzo Spadafora, Italy’s sports minister had been pushing for live free-to-air exposure of matches as they returned behind closed doors. However, the AGCM ruled that the free-to-air rights had not been put up for sale in a tender process and that coverage could therefore not be possible.

It had been proposed that DAZN make coverage of the Verona-Cagliari match available on its YouTube channel and that Sky also aired the Atalanta-Sassuolo match on TV8, its free-to-air digital terrestrial channel.

However, embargoes on free-to-air highlights were lifted, allowing public-service broadcaster Rai to show highlights shortly after the evening matches concluded. Restrictions on the timings of late-evening highlights on commercial broadcaster Mediaset were also lifted.

Mediaset recently approached Italy’s antitrust authorities over the plans to showcase live Serie A matches on free-to-air television. Mediaset is said to have to asked that either all broadcasters are able to broadcast Serie A matches on a free-to-air basis or that no advertisements could be carried if just one broadcaster is chosen.

Spadafora had earlier proposed a similar system to that introduced by German pay-television broadcaster Sky Deutschland for the Bundesliga. He suggested a Diretta Gol show – the broadcasting of near-live goals and action from various simultaneous matches in a single broadcast – on a free-to-air basis.

Sky Deutschland has made its ‘Konferenz’ coverage of Bundesliga and second-tier 2. Bundesliga matches available following the resumption of football in Germany. Sky’s Konferenz has been available on the free-to-view Sky Sport News channel and free via a live stream on the Sky Sport website.