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Sky cries foul as Mediapro sets out Serie A goals

Spanish agency Mediapro has pledged to collaborate with all Italian operators and open up new distribution windows after securing a deal for rights to domestic club football league Serie A, but pay-television broadcaster Sky has said it will fight to overturn the agreement.

Lega Serie A, the organising body of the top division of Italian club football, yesterday (Monday) accepted an offer for its domestic broadcast rights from Mediapro. The Lega said the Spanish agency had made an offer worth €1,050,001,000 ($1.28bn) per season, exceeding the minimum revenue target of €1.05bn that had been set.

The Lega will now take the offer, for the three seasons from 2018-19 to 2020-21, to the Italian antitrust authority before it can proceed with officially assigning the rights. Lega deputy commissioner, Paolo Nicoletti, hailed the deal as representing “significant growth” for Serie A.

He said: “This is an offer of great value, the economic result is extraordinary and is the result of the great work done by the advisor Infront and the Lega Serie A. We are therefore very satisfied, we have gone from a value last summer of €493m (per season), on January 22 the bid for the second call for tenders came to €762m, then to €830m after the private negotiations with the broadcasters. The first offer of the independent Mediapro broker was €950m, today we are over €1.05bn.”

Monday’s announcement came after the Lega last month said it would enter into private negotiations over its media rights with Mediapro after talks with broadcasters failed to result in an agreement satisfying its goals for its next domestic contract.

Lega Serie A earlier entered into private negotiations with bidders for its domestic broadcast rights after offers opened on January 22 failed to meet the minimum revenue target of €1.05bn per season.

The Lega opened initial offers after issuing the tender documents for its next set of domestic broadcast rights earlier in January. Two separate documents had been issued for the rights – one for pay-television operators, digital-terrestrial television platforms and internet outlets, along with a subordinate tender intended for independent financial intermediaries.

Bids were due by January 22 and the Lega confirmed at the time that it had received five offers from broadcasters and media companies, along with one from an independent intermediary – Mediapro. The Lega declined to accept any of the offers and entered into private talks with broadcasters and media companies in a bid to reach the €1.05bn-per-season mark.

Mediapro has stressed the need for a co-operative approach to its Serie A rights venture, which is set to include the development of league-themed channels, adding matches will be seen on every platform and every possible screen.

Mediapro president Jaume Roures said: “Our goal is to sell as much football as possible, at the best possible quality, at the right price, collaborating with the platforms and opening new distribution windows.

“We talked with all the platforms in Italy, we explained to them our project and showed how the subscribers in the (Spanish) LaLiga have grown. This system does not work if we and all the platforms do not work together. We aim to create an immediately recognisable Serie A brand so we will try to convince everyone that it is important to give the same image to the whole tournament.”

However, Sky has said it will contest the Lega’s decision. Sky is currently Serie A’s main rights partner, paying €585m per season for rights to the matches of all 20 teams. Its main argument against the Mediapro deal revolves around a claim that its framework means the agency cannot be classed as an independent intermediary.

In a statement reported by Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport, Sky said: “Given that the Spanish audiovisual group Mediapro – despite having submitted an offer for the specific call for proposals addressed exclusively to ‘independent intermediaries’ – it would not operate as an independent intermediary but as a true communication operator.”

Sky added it would therefore ask the Lega “to consider inadmissible the Mediapro offer and therefore to stop private negotiations with the Spanish group and to immediately exclude it from the assignment procedure”.