Infront Italy and the dawn of a new era for football rights

Football rights has historically been one of the more complex issues in the sporting firmament, and the Italian TV market is no exception to the general rule. In this country, the principal players are Italian football clubs, adviser Infront Sports and Media (Infront Italy) and the broadcasters – all of whom, needless to say, need to maximise their returns. Although not always what you might describe as a smooth-sailing process, there is no doubt that a more constructive approach to rights has emerged during the last couple of years.

After several months of discussions, on 18 November, during the gathering of the Football League, the approval was unanimous by the 20 football teams of Serie A with respect to the new proposal to be submitted to Infront Italy.

It is to be remembered that Infront has lately handled all the rights on behalf of the Football League and therefore also the delicate ‘issue’ of the TV rights.

Involved are billions of euro that oxygenate the Italian national football clubs and very high commissions paid to the adviser.

In practice, the Lega Calcio holds again for the first three years (2015 to 2018) the same approach as in recent years (a guaranteed minimum close to a billion euro per year), while for the second three-year period (2018 to 2021) some 1 billion and 150 million euros per year are involved. In practice, the soccer league asks Infront to raise 960 million more than the previous bid. In fact, until last week, Infront had secured 900 million minimum per season in the first period and 930 in the second, for a total of 5.49 billion, compared with the 6.45 billion of the new proposal.

The Italian Football League is comprised of many football clubs: some are in favour of the adviser, Infront, while other teams like Sassuolo, Inter, Verona, Fiorentina and Sampdoria have expressed discontent, calling into question the role itself of Infront and the huge commissions that the adviser earns (around 30/40 million per year, which is far more than the amount earned by a team of the second ‘area’ of Serie A).

In addition, the exploitation of TV rights concerning Italian Serie A football on foreign channels abroad, entrusted to MP & Silva of Riccardo Silva, in the three-year period 2012-2015 has collectively guaranteed clubs only 350 million euros, which is considered insufficient when compared to the situation in some other European countries.

The companies who have raised concerns have therefore proposed the idea of launching a personal Serie A thematic channel (Lega TV) to sell the TV rights as a ‘complete product’. The question arising from this possibility can be summarised as follows: is Lega TV a serious deterrent to be used against offers considered as inadequate or a proper TV network project in its own right?

Perhaps surprisingly, Infront responded to this idea by proposing that it might become directly responsible for the activities of producing and distributing the possible new channel, and immediately commissioned research by Eurisco that defined the pool of potential TV viewers for such a service – and who might, therefore, move away from the current Sky-Mediaset TV offer.

Of course, only time will tell whether or not this idea changes the landscape of Italian TV football rights.

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