MILAN Nov 18 Italy's top-flight soccer clubs
have picked Swiss-based sports marketing group Infront as the
main adviser to negotiate a new package of television rights for
the coming three-to-six seasons, league chairman Maurizio
Beretta said on Monday.
Infront, which had been widely expected to win the deal, has
held the rights negotiating contract since 2009 and was bidding
to have it extended until 2021.
Lega Serie A, the association of Italy's top league soccer
clubs, has proposed offering Infront a three-year deal which
would be automatically renewable for another three years,
dependent on meeting certain pre-agreed targets.
"The assembly unanimously agreed to make an offer to Infront
on the basis of which we will open negotiations," Beretta told
reporters in Milan.
The League, which rejected a rival offer from international
sports agency IMG, will now hammer out the final details with
Infront before signing a final deal, which would run from the
Infront had guaranteed a minimum of 900 million euros ($1.2
billion) a year to the clubs for the next three seasons and
another 930 million for the three seasons after that in a
six-year deal worth 5.5 billion euros.
But the offer covering the second period may be revised
during the course of negotiations which will be led by Juventus
chairman Andrea Agnelli and Claudio Lotito, chairman
Infront's proposal had the backing of Mediaset,
Italy's biggest television broadcaster, and a group of 13 clubs
led by AC Milan. But it faced opposition from other clubs
including Juventus and News Corp's Italian unit Sky
Sky Italia has long been unhappy with the status quo, which
it says holds back development of the game and favours its
rival, Mediaset, owned by Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime
minister and boss of Serie A club AC Milan.
In its current form, the contract, unique in Europe, awards
television rights on the basis of delivery platform - satellite
or digital terrestrial - but charges widely different prices to
the two main broadcasters.
Sky has held the rights to broadcast on satellite while
Mediaset broadcasts via digital terrestrial. Sky has proposed
creating packages of different matches for which broadcasters
could bid to offer exclusively but Mediaset has indicated it
prefers to maintain the current shared system.