As Italian football moves on-line, TV rights bonanza may be waning

TURIN: In this file photo taken on July 04, 2020 a television cameraman prepares to broadcast the Italian Serie A football match Juventus vs Torino played behind closed doors at the Juventus stadium in Turin. — AFP

ROME: The broadcast deal between the Italian league and streaming platform DAZN announced on Friday may represent a small revolution, but it also continues a trend of the value of TV rights stagnating or falling. AFP Sport rounds up the financial state of play in Europe’s big five leagues, as even the English Premier League struggles to maintain the level of its deals.

The Premier League still has the world’s biggest football contracts, but the market is looking less healthy. Despite the entry of Amazon, which bought 20 matches a season, the original contract for 2019-2022 of £5 billion (5.85 billion euros) represented a slight drop on 2016-2019, which was £5.1 billion. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, the league is giving viewers more games for less money. After the interruption to last season by the pandemic, the league agreed to pay broadcasters at home and abroad rebates worth a reported £330 million. However the biggest slice of that, £170 million to Sky, is deferred. The original domestic contracts covered 180 of the 380 matches a season. With stadiums empty, the league attempted to launch a pay-per-view service for the balance, but fans refused to buy. Humiliated, the league caved in and “gifted” the remaining matches to rights holders at no extra cost, including a handful of matches on the BBC, the first games on the free-to-air national station in Premier league history. And the bidding on the next round of TV rights has started with indications that the value of domestic deals could drop further.

A small revolution will take place from next season in Italy, with the bulk of the league’s matches being streamed by the DAZN platform, which on Friday outbid historic broadcaster Sky by agreeing to pay 2.52 billion euros for the main package of rights over the next three seasons. From 2018 to this season, Sky and DAZN have shared the domestic TV rights to Serie A in deals worth 973 million euros a year. For 2021-24, DAZN will pay around 840m euros a year to broadcast all ten matches each week, but it will have to share three of those with another broadcaster. The sale of those matches is still under negotiation with Sky, among others. The Italian league is hoping the final deals are as close as possible to the current total.

The German Bundesliga found itself negotiating the new TV deals for its two divisions last summer at the height of the pandemic. The domestic four-year deal, with Sky Deutschland and DAZN, of 4.4 billion euros, or 1.1 billion euros a season, represented a slight drop on the record previous contract. Sky will show Saturday matches and DAZN games on Fridays, which are unpopular with fans, and Sundays. Bundesliga boss Christian Seifert said the deal: “Gives us the greatest possible stability in times of uncertainty”.

In Spain, La Liga awarded the 2019-22 TV rights for the its league to the duo Telefonica (which owns the Movistar TV channel, La Liga’s main broadcaster) and Mediapro, for 3.421 billion euros, or an average of 1.14 billion euros a season. Comparison with previous deals is difficult, because before 2016 clubs sold their rights individually. The pandemic has forced a drop in the value of the deals, in particular La Liga had to renegotiate its 460m-euro contract with Mediapro for the rights to broadcast matches in Spanish bars, badly hit by the pandemic.

Chinese-Spanish broadcaster Mediapro was less successful in persuading the French league to renegotiate the record 1.217 billion euro annual deal for the bulk of the rights to  Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 matches for 2020-24. Instead the leagues tore up the deal in December. In its place, the leagues signed a deal worth around 683 million euros for this season with old partner Canal+, representing a drop of almost 50 percent in anticipated revenues. After this season, the TV picture is fuzzy: the rights have yet to be negotiated. — AFP

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