Serie A media-rights guidelines receive antitrust approval

Italy’s antitrust authority (AGCM) has cleared the way for Italian football’s Lega Serie A to begin its sale of domestic broadcast rights from 2021-22 to 2023-24 after approving the guidelines set out by the league.

The approval, which follows the green light given by Italy’s communications authority (AGCOM), covers the sale of centralised rights to Serie A, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa, along with the ‘Primavera’ youth league, cup and Supercoppa.

Lega Serie A lodged its guidelines with AGCM on November 27 and then provided an updated version on January 14 after feedback from AGCOM.

Within its approval, the competition watchdog backed the “preparation of packages that stimulate competition in the pay-television market, allowing more pay-television operators to be able to broadcast a large part of Serie A”.

The regulator also supported the “multiplying of distribution platforms, accentuating the exchangeability – and therefore the competition – between pay-television operators with the benefit to users of creating greater choice and lower prices”.

The watchdog flagged up the need for those awarded the rights to “comply with provisions with regards to the suppression of unsporting conduct related to gaming and betting”.

The domestic live rights to Serie A games are currently held by pay-television platform Sky Italia and subscription OTT service DAZN in deals worth €973m ($1.05bn) per season.

The forthcoming launch of the sales process comes with media and production group Mediapro having bid to create a channel in a joint venture project with the league.

Mediapro’s offer of €1.283bn per season has been on the table since November 4. The clubs failed to reach an agreement on the offer at four league assemblies and negotiations then stalled as the two parties waited for a new president to be elected. Mediapro and the league have threatened legal action against each other for damages in the interim period but negotiations between the two are expected to continue.

At the start of the month, the communications regulator said that the criteria set out by the league for the sale of rights do not affect competition, albeit the individual packages must be assessed further when the invitation to tender is launched.

On the prospect of a league channel project, AGCOM did not deliver an option, describing it as “outside of the evaluation of the guidelines that relate exclusively to the commercialisation of the rights”.

Newly-elected Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino recently said that the process for the sale of the domestic rights for the next three-year cycle, from 2021-22 to 2023-24, would be “rapid”, and should be wrapped up within six months.