November 27 – Serie A’s decision to take its Super Cup to Saudi Arabia could cost the Italian league $500 million in TV rights if beIN Sport follows through on its threat to drop the league from its schedules when the broadcast rights agreement comes up for renewal for the 2021-2024 cycle next year.
beIN, which accounts for 55% of Serie A’s overseas rights revenue – it holds broadcast rights for 36 countries – protested to Serie A about the Super Cup’s move to Saudi last December. The first season of the three-final deal, said to be worth $22 million, was played in January this year.
The beIN protest was triggered by Saudi Arabia providing the base for the beoutQ pirate channel. beoutQ has been stealing Qatari-owned beIN rights with the tacit approval (beIN argue encouragement) of the Saudi authorities – part of the geo-political stand-off between the two countries. beIN argued that the award of the Super Cup effectively rewarded Saudis and supported the copyright theft, when Serie A should be more concerned about protecting the rights and rights holders.
The beIN arguments fell on deaf Serie A ears. As did Italian government issues around human rights issues in the country and whether women would be allowed into stadia.
A beIN spokesman said the broadcaster “is actively reconsidering its entire commercial relationship with Serie A following the league’s decision to go ahead with its Super Cup match next month in Saudi Arabia, the country responsible for the mass theft of the league’s premium sports rights for over two years.”
“It is astonishing that the league has decided to press ahead despite all the evidence of the damage that has been done to the league’s business by beoutQ, Saudi’s pirate operation. It is remarkable what Serie A is seemingly prepared to jeopardise – not only all the financial revenues from one of its biggest broadcaster partners, but also the exposure beIN gives to the league in markets all around the world, from Europe to Asia and all across the Middle East & North Africa. Serie A’s leadership is putting at risk all of this, in favour of making a quick buck from the very entity that has been stealing its rights for two years.”
With Serie A clubs keen to expand supporter bases outside Europe, removal from beIN’s broadcast schedules will reduce awareness and brand building, impacting on their ability to sell local sponsorships.
While Serie A will hunt for other broadcast buyers, the reality of the marketplaces beIN Sport operates in is that there generally no other credible market competitors able to match the Qatari broadcaster’s distribution or price levels.
Serie A were reportedly linked to the Saudis through FIFA lawyer Mario Gallavotti who was also an advisor on FIFA’s ill-fated proposal for a global Nations League and Club World Cup rights buyout. More recently Gallavotti has been linked in Africa with FIFA advisory on CAF’s shambolic ending of its rights contract with Lagardere and the subsequent dispute.
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