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Mediaset and Sky Italia defend rights agreement

Italian media company Mediaset and pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia have defended their positions after their offices were searched as part of an investigation by regulators into the sale of media rights for Serie A, the top division of football in the country.

The investigations, involving Italy’s competition watchdog, the Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, and the country’s financial authority, the Guardia di Finanza, are focusing on a sublicensing deal struck between the two broadcasters for rights covering the three seasons from 2015-16 to 2017-18.

According to reports, police searched a total of six locations on Tuesday, including the offices of the Italian football league, Lega Serie A, and the Infront Sports & Media agency, which is the league’s exclusive adviser for the national and international media rights.

Mediaset said that it is “absolutely convinced that the allocation of television rights was perfectly regular.”

Sky Italia said that it was cooperating fully with the authorities and was “confident that it operated with integrity throughout the process”. Sky Italia added: “The final agreement regarding the rights to Serie A for 2015-2018 differed to the initial result when the bids were opened. It is entirely understandable therefore that the [regulators] should wish to satisfy themselves as to the behaviour of all parties involved.”

The competition regulator said that it was investigating possible “sharing agreements” and the restriction of competition in the process. The two parties struck a sublicensing deal with each other to share coverage and avert legal action following a dispute over the rights-selling process. According to the authority, the investigation will be completed by April 30, 2016.