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Sky wins Italian Champions League rights from Mediaset: source

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 23:13

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European pay-TV group Sky beat Mediaset in the race to broadcast UEFA Champions League matches in Italy from 2018, a source said on Wednesday, in a new blow for the Italian broadcaster.

[MILAN] European pay-TV group Sky beat Mediaset in the race to broadcast UEFA Champions League matches in Italy from 2018, a source said on Wednesday, in a new blow for the Italian broadcaster.

Mediaset won the last auction in 2014 to air Europe's biggest soccer competition on its pay-TV division for three years for just under 700 million euros (S$1.08 billion), raising its cost base but giving it an advantage over Sky Italia.

This time, Mediaset's bid was in excess of the 227 million euros per season it offered last time, a source close to the matter told Reuters, without giving a precise figure.

But Sky's Italian subsidiary won with a bid of between 270 million and 290 million euros per season to broadcast Champions League matches for three seasons from 2018, the source said.

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Mediaset's pay-TV brand Premium has 2 million subscribers who are mainly drawn to its sports channels but it has failed to add enough customers to offset the money spent on the broadcasting rights.

IT Media Consulting CEO Augusto Preta said the UEFA auction method, which grants exclusive rights to the winner, increases the value of the tender year after year.

In January, Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said it was ready to scale down Premium and stop showing the soccer matches if they became to costly.

It said it would bid for the Champions League rights but would only with an "opportunistic approach", to ensure the sustainability of its business.

Mediaset failed to sell its pay-TV business to France's Vivendi last year, dragging the company into the red and prompting its management to rethink its strategy for the loss-making channel.

Bids for the Champions League TV rights for the seasons starting with 2018-19 through to 2020-21 were due on Monday morning. Another source told Reuters that an official decision had yet to be announced.

In Britain, Sky was beaten by BT, which retained the Champions League rights by agreeing to pay £1.2 billion (S$2.1 billion), nearly a third more than the previous auction.

But in Germany, Sky Deutschland secured a sub-licence deal with digital content and media provider Perform Group to show UEFA's games in the country from next year.

In France, Vivendi's pay-TV business was beaten to the Champions League rights by a 350 million euros per year bid from Altice, putting it under further pressure.

REUTERS

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