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Serie A weighs up options ahead of next broadcast rights contracts

Italian soccer top flight wants major increase on media revenues from 2024/25.

7 February 2023 Ed Dixon

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  • Serie A aims to close gap on Premier League and LaLiga
  • League could scrap exclusive deals in bid to boost earnings

As Serie A prepares to strike new broadcast rights deals from 2024/25, Italian soccer’s top flight is weighing up several options in an effort to increase media revenues.

The league’s current domestic deal with sports streaming service DAZN is worth €2.5 billion (US$2.7 billion) and runs from 2021 to 2024. Pay-TV broadcaster Sky Italia also has a package worth a reported €262.5 million (US$280.9 million) over three years.

However, those figures pale in comparison to the Premier League, with English soccer’s top tier earning UK£5 billion (US$5.9 billion) alone from its domestic rights arrangements.

The feeling among Serie A stakeholders is the league has to find ways to close the gap. AC Milan owner Gerry Cardinale already believes Serie A, in terms of the quality of the soccer on show, is “on a level with LaLiga”, adding that the media rights revenue disparity between the Spanish top flight and the Premier League “should be improved”.

Serie A’s overseas TV rights deals, also covering the 2021/24 cycle, are worth around €670 million (US$717 million), which is dwarfed by the Premier League’s US$6.55 billion for 2022/25.

Reuters reported last October that Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo is pushing to increase the league’s international broadcast revenue to around €1.1 billion (US$1.2 billion) for 2024/2027 and about €1.9 billion (US$2 billion) for 2027/30.

Domestically, fees of €3.2 billion (US$3.4 billion) and €3.4 billion (US$3.6 billion) for the 2024/27 and 2027/30 periods are purportedly being targeted.

Of course, actually hitting those numbers is a different matter. One option is to seek external investment. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase & Co have been linked with financing Serie A’s media rights business. The latter is reportedly able to provide between €700 million (US$749 million) and €1 billion (US$1.1 billion) in bank financing, with the rights acting as the collateral backing the investment.

Resurrecting a deal with a private equity firm through the spinoff the league’s media business is also on the table. A €1.7 billion (US$1.8 billion) offer from a CVC Capital Partners-led consortium, also featuring Advent International and FSI, seemed a formality, only for several clubs to block the proposal in 2021.

More recently, Apollo Global Management and Searchlight Capital, alongside a group of funds led by Carlyle Group Inc, have also reportedly expressed interest in buying into Serie A’s rights.

There is also the potential to overhaul how rights are awarded. According to Repubblica Affari & Finanza, Serie A is mulling abandoning exclusive agreements in favour of attracting multiple broadcasters.

That approach was taken by the second-tier Serie B, which managed to triple its broadcast revenues for 2021/24 through agreements with DAZN, Sky and Helbiz.

Should Serie A go down that route, it will reportedly be aided by the Authority for Communications Guarantees (Agcom) regulator, whose guidelines for the next rights cycle specify that the league’s matches should be aired by as many operators as possible. This is in part to help reduce the average price consumers will have to pay.

Additionally, an amendment has been filed to extend the maximum duration of domestic broadcast deals for Serie A, as well as other professional sports leagues, from three to five years.

Extra competition could prove costly for DAZN. The service has experienced several technical problems during its Serie A broadcasts, including at the start of the ongoing campaign when viewers were unable to log into their accounts. DAZN promised that the issue had been identified and resolved, and that compensation was being offered to customers.

As well as TV, Serie A is moving ahead with plans to launch an in-house radio channel. It hopes the offering will reach more than 20 million fan across Italy and is taking interest from companies able to provide the services required to get the service off the ground.

Currently, Italian public-service broadcaster Rai holds radio rights to Serie A games until the end of 2023/24, though the league’s in-house channel would also focus on other exclusive content, such as match reruns and podcasts.

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