Sky Italia lands Serie A rights package after dropping legal case
By Tariq Saleh
Sky Italia, the pay-television broadcaster, has withdrawn its court appeal against Serie A in being awarded a non-exclusive live domestic rights package for the next three years.
Following a protracted process, Sky was finally awarded Package 2 of domestic rights to the top Italian soccer league, comprising co-exclusive rights to three matches per round.
At the latest assembly of the league and its 20 clubs on Friday, 16 teams voted in favour of Sky’s offer, with Napoli and Lazio abstaining and Parma and Crotone opting not to vote as they had already been relegated.
The Comcast-owned broadcaster will share rights to the three games with DAZN, the OTT subscription platform, which will show all 10 matches per week for a three-year period from 2021-22 to 2023-24, seven on an exclusive basis.
Sky, which was understood to be the sole bidder for Serie A’s outstanding live rights package, will pay an an average of €87.5 million ($106.3 million) per season.
After having an initial offer rejected in March, Sky returned with a restructured proposal but did not increase the overall fee.
The broadcaster’s annual rights fee is believed to be €85 million for the first season, €87.5 million for the second and €90 million in the third.
Serie A had put the co-exclusive tender back on the market with a reserve asking price of €150 million per season but ultimately accepted the offer from Sky which fell short of this figure.
The league accepted Sky’s latest offer on the condition that the broadcaster dropped its court appeal challenging the decision to award DAZN the lion’s share of domestic rights.
Serie A had postponed a vote among its 20 clubs for Sky’s recent offer amid the legal case, which was heard by a Milan court last week, with a ruling set for last Friday.
In an attempt to block DAZN’s three-year deal, Sky recently submitted an urgent appeal with the Court of Milan over what it perceived as a disproportionate distribution of audiovisual packages by the league.
DAZN beat off incumbent Serie A rights-holder Sky to land the main packages of rights in an agreement worth €2.5 billion.
Under its co-exclusive package, Sky will show the three Serie A matches at 8.45pm on Saturday, 12.30pm on Sunday and 8.45pm on Monday.
Overall, Serie A will receive €927.5 million on average per season in the new rights cycle, down from €973 million in the present three-year period from 2018-19 to 2020-21.
Despite not securing the main Serie A package, Sky was always keen to offer the top domestic league as part of its extensive soccer portfolio.
The pay-TV operator recently snapped up rights to Italy’s second-tier Serie B for the next three years, while renewing its rights to Germany’s Bundesliga and landing France’s Ligue 1 in deals that all begin from next season.
Sky also holds rights to the Uefa Champions League, Europa League and new Europa Conference League clubs competitions for the next three years, and the English Premier League for next season, and will show all 51 matches from this summer's delayed 2020 European Championships.
Meanwhile Serie A has agreed a deal with Electronic Arts to become its official video game partner.
The league approved the agreement at its assembly and the tie-up will see the popular Fifa title serve as the official game of Serie A.
The Serie A logo, trophy and associated badges will feature in the new version of the game, Fifa 22, later this year.
EA replaces rival video game developer Konami, which had agreed a wide-ranging licensing deal with Serie A for its Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 title.
Elsewhere in soccer, EA Sports has licensing deals with the likes of French giants Paris Saint-Germain and England’s Liverpool.