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Streaming service DAZN agree ‘historic’ deal to broadcast Serie A football

Rome (AFP) – Streaming service DAZN on Friday hailed “an historic agreement” after winning the rights to broadcast Italy’s Serie A football for the next three seasons in a deal worth 2.52 billion euros ($2.97 billion).

“We are thrilled that Serie A has a new home on DAZN,” Group co-CEO James Rushton said in a statement, welcoming an agreement that “confirms DAZN as the leading sports destination in Italy”.

“It is one of the largest sports streaming deals in history and is a seminal tipping point in the migration of sports consumption from linear pay TV to OTT (Over-the-top),” DAZN added in a statement.

DAZN offered 840 million euros per season for 2021-2024, and their offer was preferred to that of satellite television group Sky, the traditional main broadcaster in Italy.

The online platform won the exclusive rights for seven games each matchday and will also share rights for the remaining three with another broadcaster.

Sky, which at the moment payed 780 million euros per season, is in discussions for those three matches with a bid of around 70 million euros.

Italy’s top flight clubs finally reached agreement after two months of stalemate, with 16 of the 20 voting in favour of the streaming service, with a minimum of 14 required, just three days before the March 29 limit for the validity of offers.

The decision marks a change of course for Italian football with, for the first time, most of the championship being broadcast only through streaming.

Lega Serie A CEO Luigi De Siervo said the deal could “also have a systemic value for the whole country, constituting an important driving force for accelerating the digitisation process” in Italy.

DAZN, a platform sometimes referred to as “Sports Netflix,” has been broadcasting three matches per matchday in Italy since 2018 for 193 million euros per season.

In the context of the financially-crippling Covid-19, the main objective of Serie A was to try to limit a further plunge in revenues. 

Discussions have focused in recent weeks on the technical capacity of DAZN and the quality of the Italian networks, to avoid any hiccups in streaming.

Italian Minister for Technological Innovation Vittorio Colao estimated that 60 percent of Italian households do not have internet access.

“To date, about 16 million households do not use fixed-line Internet services or do not have a fixed ultra-broadband connection,” Colao told Gazzetta Dello Sport.

DAZN moved to reassure on this aspect, stating last weekend: “Ninety-nine percent of Italian families can already acquire a broadband connection. Our commitment aims to support and accelerate the digitisation of the country.” 

The platform is allied in this operation with Telecom Italia (Tim). 

Beyond the choice between DAZN and Sky, the recent stalemate followed a behind-the-scenes wrangle amid possible interest of private investment funds to the tune of 1.7 billion euro.

Discussions are now at a standstill with the funds concerned — CVC, Advent and FSI. 

In parallel, Serie A also proceeded this week to a first allocation of rights for foreign countries with the CBS network to broadcast in the United States, for around 57 million euros per season.

In other parts of the world, however, these international rights could decrease, due to the decision of the Qatari group beIN, currently holder of Italian rights in 35 regions, not to apply.

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