June 15, 2018 / 6:00 AM / 4 months ago

Sports media group Perform goes on the attack with Serie A soccer

* First streaming service to gain Serie A rights

* Says pricing will target younger subscribers

* Aims to become a leading player in sports streaming

By Giancarlo Navach

MILAN, June 15 (Reuters) - British media group Perform has signalled its intent to become a leading force in streaming sports content in Europe, clinching broadcasting rights for Italy’s Serie A soccer.

In one of its biggest such deals so far, Perform this week acquired the rights in Italy to air three of the ten weekly matches in the country’s top soccer league for the next three seasons.

Perform paid close to 600 million euros ($698 million) for the three seasons, a source close to the matter told Reuters. The remaining matches will be broadcast by Sky.

Though Perform has yet to make its mark on the public consciousness, the British business is 85 percent controlled by Access Industries, an investment group led by billionaire businessman Len Blavatnik, whose portfolio includes companies such as Warner Music group and music streaming service Deezer.

Perform said it would launch its DAZN on-demand streaming service in Italy to show the matches, offering subscriptions at 9.99 euros a month.

Having become the first streaming service to gain exclusive rights to Serie A games, DAZN’s pricing is intended to target younger viewers and the estimated 2.5-3 million Italian soccer fans who watch matches on inferior, illegal online services. “We will carry out a big commercial campaign and we are open to distributing DAZN with everyone,” DAZN Chief executive James Rushton told reporters.

MULTIPLE PLATFORMS

The group is already in contact with major media players including Sky, Italy’s Mediaset, Vodafone and Telecom Italia to make its offer available on other platforms.

“We will listen and talk to everyone and will consider any business model that will allow DAZN to be accessible to the largest number of users in the country,” said Perform’s chief commercial officer, Jacopo Tonoli.

DAZN chief Rushton did not disclose the group’s total investments in Italy but said it had longer-term objectives than the initial three-year deal for Serie A and also intends to buy broadcasting rights for sports including tennis, cycling and basketball.

For all its ambition, however, Perform faces some heavyweight competition in sports streaming.

Amazon is also testing the waters, agreeing a deal last week to show 20 English Premier League soccer matches per season to UK subscribers from 2019. It has also bought some rights to screen tennis in Britain and Ireland.

DAZN will spend 50 million euros ($58 million) to launch its Italian service in a tight schedule before the new Serie A season starts on Aug. 19. It also intends to employ more staff, increasing its headcount to 200 from 50.

The business already operates in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Japan and Canada, with plans to launch in the United States, where it has signed a $1 billion deal for boxing rights. ($1 = 0.8598 euros) (Writing by Giulia Segreti Editing by David Goodman)

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