Mediaset chief open to Sky partnership as Premium’s future weighed up

Mediaset vice-president Pier Silvio Berlusconi has said the Italian broadcaster would be interested in a partnership with pay-television rival Sky Italia for the final season of its Uefa Champions League rights deal, adding that a pay-per-view service will be launched for the club football competition as the company assesses its future direction.

Speaking during the presentation of Mediaset’s programming schedules in Monte Carlo, Berlusconi discussed Mediaset’s strategy as it prepares to lose the rights to European club football and with the future broadcast makeup of Serie A, the top-tier domestic league, uncertain as of now.

Mediaset last month lost its rights to the Champions League and Europa League with Sky becoming the new rights-holder, securing exclusive live rights to all matches from the 2018-19 season through to 2020-21.

Berlusconi said that it may be possible to share the rights with Sky for the 2017-18 season. “The rights for the Champions League for next season at the moment there are no agreements, but these could arrive in the next month and a half,” he said, according to Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport.

“Sky might even be interested in having the rights a year in advance, but it also depends on how much it is willing to pay. If there was an agreement, this could allow you to watch the games on both satellite and digital.”

Berlusconi also announced that for the 2017-18 Champions League season there will be the opportunity to buy single matches on pay-per-view, but “the price is still to be defined”.

Mediaset president Fedele Confalonieri last month confirmed that the company will participate in the new sales process for domestic rights to Serie A when it is launched later this year.

Mediaset filed a complaint to Italy’s antitrust authority, the AGCM, over the structure of the recently-aborted sales process, which the broadcaster claimed favoured Sky. Mediaset refused to participate in the latest tender and the only offers that were submitted did not meet the expectations of Lega Serie A, which operates the division. Bids for the rights covering three seasons, from 2018-19 to 2020-21, were due in by June 10.

Berlusconi reiterated that Mediaset is interested in the Serie A rights, but at a “reasonable price”. Mediaset last month secured full control of its pay-television unit, Mediaset Premium, after acquiring the stake held by Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica.

Mediaset said it had acquired the 11.1 per cent stake of Mediaset Premium held by Telefonica meaning it will own 100 per cent of the share capital. Corriere said Berlusconi’s presentation sought to shift the emphasis away from pay-television towards digital television, internet and radio.

Regarding the future of Mediaset Premium, he added, according to Gazzetta dello Sport: “The goal with which Mediaset Premium was born was defensive, we had lots of digital bandwidth available and the research spoke of a strong growth in pay-TV, it was estimated a potential of 12 million households. 

“Then we made an important step, in purchasing football rights, but it did not work, because the truth is that the pay-TV market has not grown and has stopped at six and a half million subscribers.”