Serie A forfeits millions as beIN forces rebate that will shake up TV rights market

By Paul Nicholson

June 29 – Serie A returned to beIN Sport TV schedules at the weekend following the last-minute conclusion of a deal between the broadcaster and the league over a reduction in the rights fees to be paid.

Recognising that it could not guarantee broadcast exclusivity in light of the piracy of its live rights, in particular by Saudi-supported pirate broadcaster beoutQ, Serie A agreed a rebate with beIN Sport and although no financial details have been revealed, it is likely to forfeit hundreds of millions on any likely renewal.

BeIN Media Group is Serie A’s largest international partner making up more than 50% of overseas TV revenue in a deal worth $500 million that expires in 2021. The rights buy covers 35 countries worldwide including: France, Australia, Turkey, Asia – Hong Kong, Asia – Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Asia – Indonesia, Philippines, Timor Leste, and 24 countries in the Middle East & North Africa.

BeIN argued that the league had not done enough to protect their exclusivity and hence all rights from Serie A will now be treated as non-exclusive and treated accordingly.

The hardline taken by beIN with Serie A followed the Italians separate sale of Coppa Italia rights to Saudi Arabia. Last week’s World Trade Organisation ruling that the Saudi government had actively supported the beoutQ piracy service, effectively meant Serie A were rewarding a country that was already stealing their rights. A price tag running into the hundreds of millions has now been put on Serie A’s decision – considerably more than the money they achieved from selling the Coppa Italia rights to Saudi Arabia.

The knock on effect for football’s other major football rights holders – including the premium Premier League and LaLiga rights – is that Serie A has in effect accelerated what will almost certainly be a loss of income for them as beIN applies its non-exclusive negotiation position to their renewals.

BeIN has previously said that, because of beoutQ, “football leagues will now bear the economic consequences of selling beIN exclusivity, when none existed.”

beIN raised the issue of beoutQ piracy three years ago in its core Middle Eastern markets and over that period has cut more than 300 staff positions in its business. Last June beIN Media Group CEO, Yousef Al-Obaidly warned: “I’m here to tell you how the endless growth of sports rights is over. Not only that, but in certain cases, rights values are going drop off a cliff, and the very economic model of our industry is going to be re-written. Any rights-holders who think that the technology companies of the West Coast are their financial saviours are going to be swiftly disappointed.”

A year later, with football’s rightsholders not having done enough to protect their income, and Serie A effectively hastening a seismic change in rights negotiations, football (and Serie A in particular) is left licking its financial wounds.

The timing is not great for Serie A who are in the throes of attempting to raise upwards of $3 billion of venture capital. While the Premier League is potentially poised to let the fox into the coop with a pending sanction of Saudi Arabia’s state wealth fund to take ownership of Newcastle United.

Meanwhile, beIN, somewhat tongue in cheek welcomed Serie A back to their networks, with a spokesperson saying: A spokesperson saying: “We are delighted to announce the return of Serie A live and exclusive on our channels across 35 countries with immediate effect, starting with Juventus v Lecce tonight. The agreement reached regarding Serie A sets a major precedent, reinforcing what beIN and other international broadcasters have been saying for years:- if rights-holders don’t tackle piracy, they’ll only receive non-exclusive fees.”

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