Audacious Qatari bid for Serie A rights rebuffed by clubs
An audacious €13-billion ($15.6-billion) proposal by the International Bank of Qatar for Serie A broadcast rights over 10 years has failed to meet with the necessary approval of clubs from the Italian top flight.
Reports of the bid from the private sector bank emerged at the end of last year as Lega Serie A and Infront Italy, its agency partner, prepared themselves to go to market with their revamped invitation to tender for domestic broadcast rights.
The bid was put to a vote of clubs at the league’s assembly meeting yesterday, but received only 13 votes in favour, one short of the necessary required, reports Gazzetta dello Sport, the Italian newspaper.
Fiorentina, Inter Milan, Juventus and Torino are all said to have rejected the offer (while three more clubs abstained), with concerns said to revolve around “uncertain information about the financial transaction, the fact that many clubs already have individual relationships with other banks and the overlapping of the offer with the domestic tender process.”
The purported Qatari bid for rights from next season onwards has raised eyebrows within the industry and was even cited by French clubs this week as one of the reasons to postpone the rights auction for Ligue 1 to allow more time to observe the market.
The International Bank of Qatar approached Serie A through advisers Ernst & Young, the financial services giant, and Comoi, the Italian investment company, and the bid is reported to have included “a fixed commission of 1.5 per cent and a variable commission of 15 per cent in the event of Serie A exceeding €1.3 billion annually.”
Lega Serie A published the details of its domestic rights tender on Saturday and has issued a separate process for independent financial intermediaries.
The tender covering pay-TV (satellite and digital terrestrial) and digital (internet, IPTV and mobile) rights comprises five main packages, while the tender aimed at financial institutions offers one comprehensive global package.
Both invitations to tender carry a minimum asking price of €1.05 billion per season and run from 2018-19 to 2020-21.
Following the bid deadline of 1pm (CET) on 22 January, the league and Infront will decide whether to award rights to broadcasters, proceed with private negotiations, or, if none of the main packages are awarded, then assess any offers from financial intermediaries.
At present, Sky Italia pays €572 million per season for rights to all 380 Serie A matches, while pay-TV rival Mediaset Premium is effectively paying €373 million for 248 matches following sub-licensing deals between the pair.
The previous invitation to tender launched in May last year, but only attracted bids from Sky Italia and Perform, the digital sports content and media group, that did not come close to the reserve price of €1 billion per season.
Meanwhile, Italy’s La Repubblica today claimed that Amazon, the online retail giant, is ready to challenge Perform for the internet rights to the league, but that Telecom Italia and Vodafone, the telecoms duo, will not be in the mix.
Amazon is reported to be weighing up a bid for the Serie A rights, while also continuing to consider a bid for domestic rights to England’s Premier League.
The ‘Satellite’ (A) and ‘Digital terrestrial’ (B) packages within the main tender each command a base price of €260 million per season, compared to €200 million per season in last summer’s tender.
The ‘Internet, IPTV and mobile’ package (C) has a minimum offer price of €160 million per season. This compares to the combined reserve price of €200 million per season for two internet and mobile packages offered last time around, a figure that sole bidder Perform did not come close to matching.
The ‘D1’ and ‘D2’ packages contain exclusive rights to the other 12 Serie A clubs, and can be bought across any audiovisual platform.
Lega Serie A and Infront’s previous invitation to tender was scrapped amid an antitrust protest from Mediaset, but market conditions have now improved, with the commercial broadcaster signalling its intention to bid in a new auction and with an end in sight to a legal dispute with Vivendi. Fresh impetus in the Italian market has also been provided by Telecom Italia teaming up with the Vivendi-owned Canal Plus to launch a joint venture targeting sports rights.
The league and Infront Italy have also been working on plans to launch a league channel to safeguard themselves against the possibility of low bids once again.
Infront’s six-year, €5.94-billion minimum guarantee agreement with Lega Serie A to operate as its exclusive adviser on both domestic and international rights media rights sales runs until the end of the 2020-21 season.