Shifts in sports rights seen for Italian TV

This summer is an incredible sports season for Italy, particularly with the European Championship and the Olympic Games. One notable beneficiary of all the activity has been national broadcaster RAI, but the balance among the main media players in Italy may soon change. Sports rights can be very profitable, especially for subscription channels and pay-per-view broadcasters, and RAI, forced to save money, is at risk of losing some rights to football, MotoGP, and car racing. Italian satellite subscription broadcaster SKY Italia and terrestrial digital-TV provider Mediaset have become very aggressive in those fields. Many in Italy believe that such social events should be in the hands of public broadcaster RAI, but money reigns in sports.

RAI President Paolo Galimberti last May said, while introducing the European Football Championship, “I am happy RAI will broadcast European Championship, but it is not to be taken for granted we will do the same in the future. For instance, the French couldn’t watch said championship on public television, and it is not sure even the next world football championship will be [broadcast] by our public service.”

Nevertheless, RAI gained the right to broadcast the Italian Serie A championship for the next three years, 2012-15. So historical programs like Novantesimo Minuto, La domenica Sportiva, and Stadio Sprint are saved.

SKY’s offer linked to free-view channel Cielo was refused by Lega Calcio as too low. After a first unsuccessful auction, Lega decided to unbundle the football rights into several “packs” so that RAI could save several million euros compared with the 24 million euros it paid for this season. Doing so, RAI missed out on the pre-match rights, and so famous Sunday-afternoon Quelli del calcio won’t be telecast.

For rights to Coppa Italia, which attracted some 12 million viewers to the final between Napoli and Juventus, Lega Calcio issued a new auction and expects a substantial increase in revenue.

Lega Calcio President Maurizio Beretta says, “The assembly accepted two offers by RAI for radio rights and for TV time from 18.15 onwards and private negotiation for the rest. The last chapter of TV rights is concerned with the offer of TIM Cup, while no agreements are reached so far on schedule and place for Supercoppa Italiana.”

Italian football will also be broadcast in China with three matches in five years.

RAI will not have the rights for Champions League because they were acquired by Mediaset on DTT.

In the mean time, SKY Italia acquired the TV rights from Dorna Sport for MotoGP, starting in the 2014 season, for all technologies and offers modalities, free-view TV, pay TV, Internet, mobile TV, and SKY Go on tablets. A total of 18 races, eight in free view probably by Cielo channel, includes three area races of Motorcycle World Championship, MotoGP, Moto2, and Moto3.

Mediaset will also have the rights to Super-bike (previously owned by La7).

SKY Italia has signed an agreement with Formula One Management starting 31 March 2013 for live broadcast of exclusive images of all events of World Championship FIA Formula 1 plus one free-view channel to broadcast nine Grand Prix, including Monza, live and 11 recorded races.


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