Infront to sell Serie A international rights regionally in next cycle
By Jonathan Rest
Lega Serie A, Italian soccer's top flight, has announced that its international media rights for the seasons 2018-19 to 2020-21 will be made available regionally for the first time when they hit the market at the end of this month.
The league and Infront Sports & Media, its marketing agency, held the first of three roadshow events in London with prospective international rights partners last night, outlining intentions to have a more direct relationship with broadcasters in certain territories than was the case in the past.
The MP & Silva agency acquired the international media rights to Serie A for the 2015-16 to 2017-18 cycle with minimal competition, but the league believes a more regional approach will help it close the gap on Spain's LaLiga and Germany's Bundesliga.
Anna Guarnerio, director of TV and media rights, Infront Italy, told broadcasters, digital companies and agencies at the Hotel Café Royal in London: "This will be a very open tender, open to both agencies and broadcasters, traditional as well as digital and over-the-top. Rights are to be offered by geography, not by continent. We are rewriting geography a bit.
"There will be packages by geographies, but also packages for regions that are part of these geographies and packages for single countries too. Wherever the league believes there is the opportunity of a direct relationship with the market... there is the possibility for that country or region to bid separately."
Pending approval by the league’s assembly on 26 July, the invitation to tender document for the international rights from 2018-19 onwards will be published at the end of the month. Bids must be submitted by the first week of September.
As detailed below, in each continent interested parties will be able to bid for one large package and in most cases there will be opportunities to bid for regionalised packages or the rights in specific countries where Serie A and Infront Italy believe there is particular value.
- All of Europe
- Western Europe, Eastern Europe
- Regional: eg Scandinavia, German-speaking territories, former Yugoslav states
- Individual, such as the UK, Spain, Germany, France and Poland.
- North, Central and South America combined
- Regional: eg Caribbean, Latin America including Brazil, Latin America excluding Brazil
- Individual, such as USA, Canada and Brazil.
Middle East and North Africa:
- One package.
- All nations, excluding South Africa (to be sold separately).
Asia and Oceania:
- One package
- India and Indian sub-continent
- Individual, such as Japan, Australia, Indonesia, China and Thailand.
In addition, there will be two global packages on offer (excluding Italy, San Marino and Vatican City): betting rights; and inflight and inship rights.
Serie A and Infront Italy will now head to New York on 19 July and Shanghai on 22 July for further roadshows also presenting changes to regulations and innovations, including new editorial offerings and technology, in the international rights package.
The league's stated aim is to improve attendances - swathes of empty seats are a common sight when watching Serie matches - and it is working closely with the top-flight clubs on policies to reduce ticket prices.
In its promotional material handed to roadshow attendees, Serie A said: "Pictures of sold-out stadiums are more attractive on TV; therefore Lega Serie A is working to have the seats in front of the main camera always full. In addition discussions with the Italian government have begun in order to smooth the process of structural modernisation of Italian stadiums."
Marco Brunelli, director general of Lega Serie A, cited three areas where the league is working to improve the product: innnovation in technology; on-field competitiveness; and stadium facilities.
He explained: "Next year we will be one of the few countries worldwide to have both goal-line technology and video assistant technology in place. They are tools to help the referees but also for improving the quality of the TV and broadcast product.
"We are also committed to improving the sporting quality of our competitions. I'm confident that the gap between Juventus [champions six seasons in a row] and the rest will close.
"Finally, there will be improvement in our facilities. Next year for the first time we will have four teams in Serie A owning their own stadiums, as well as some renovation at the San Siro [in Milan] and Stadio Olimpico [in Rome]. This is absolutely needed to reduce the gap with the other leagues."
In a plea to prospective broadcast and agency partners, Brunelli said: "Trust us, you will not be disappointed."
In late 2014, MP & Silva retained the international broadcast rights to Serie A, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, in a deal worth an average of €185 million (now $211 million) per season, a marked increase on the fee of €117 million that it paid under the previous deal.
In the last international rights tender, MP & Silva’s offer was thought to be just over 30 per cent higher than a rival offer submitted by IMG, whose bid in turn was slightly higher than an offer from the B4 Capital agency.
The trio also submitted bids in the previous invitation to tender in November 2011 (when Pitch International, Kentaro, UFA Sports and Sportfive also bid).