How Will Roma Fare in the New Serie A TV Deal?

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The last time I posted about this here, the foreign TV money deal was up for renewal. This end of January 2018 came the big cahuna: the Italian domestic TV rights deal for the next 3 seasons was up for grabs, and over 50% of every Serie A team's income and livelihood in the mix. I was too lazy to do the maths on this one (isn't even my forte on a good day) but luckily someone on the web (Calcio e Finanza) finally cracked and did the hard work for the rest of us.

The outcome? Even if Roma finished 5th this season, she would still be making 11 million euros more from TV income by the end of next season, over her old deal. To put the icing on the cake: the only team losing money out of this new deal is Juventus.

How Good Is This Deal Really?

Despite the gains on the bottom line for 19 of the 20 Serie A clubs, the outcome of January's TV rights auction fell short of most people's expectations. This deal is the lifeblood of the league, shaping the main hustle of Italy's biggest teams; when the clubs aren't looking for plusvalenze on player sales then they're relying on this deal to live. Serie A's biggest teams come out of this as either a club calling their own shots ("If you could all address us as 'J' now, thanks") or as selling clubs looking towards the Premier League for their most solid client accounts (to quote Monchi directly from his time at Sevilla: "England's a good client.")

Not even the most optimistic were expecting the winning bid to fully bridge the gap between Italy and the Premier League (the latest UEFA Report puts the player market value of the Premier League at 4.4 billion euros compared to Serie A's player market value of 2.575 billion euros), but the Serie A clubs' let their intentions be known - from over a year back - they wanted to make some sort of statement of progress on the bottom line. If only for the sake of positive headlines, they would not accept any lower than 1.05 billion euros per season from the TV networks (Sky and Mediaset) or choose to go with the radical option of setting up their own "Serie A TV" network.

As it so happens, such hardline tactics couldn't have come at a worse time: not only was the FIGC in disarray in having to elect a new president to the Italian football federation, but Sky was also in a mess from a loss of Sky Italia subscribers year-on-year while Mediaset were selling their Premium sport channels to French media group Vivendi. Every one of the usual players to sit at the bidding table had other priorities on their mind by auction time this January.

So... in stepped the radical option.

Mediapro - The Guys Behind BeIn Connect

The Lega finally pushed forward, after a week of private talks, and announced the move to (potentially) bring Serie A into the BeIn Connect realm of "subscribe straight from the internet to games" format for next season. As a gesture of goodwill, Mediapro - a Spanish independent group of ex-media executives looking to shift TV from the living room to the tablet - upped their final bid to 1000 euros more than the minimum acceptable bid, making for a tidy per season to Serie A's clubs. Goal achieved, but not exactly eating into the 'daddy' accounts of the English Premier League anytime soon.

It remains to be seen whether "Serie A TV" will really be a thing to subscribe to on the internet for anyone based in Italy (Sky are already sending legal letters to try and crowbar Mediapro into a re-sell of games to them on satellite), let alone for any Serie A fan based abroad, but the future for Italian football placing itself anywhere near to former glories does depend on them sticking to trying something new and radical on three fronts.

Going Through Changes: Triple Offence

1. The domestic TV deal is an admission that - for all it's progressive coaches, promoting Coverciano as the best export of tacticians into world football, and changes from the catenaccio image of the past - Serie A still isn't anywhere more marketable as a TV show than it sank to immediately after football's biggest stars left the peninsula from Calciopoli, debt-ridden Lazio, Parma crashing and Moratti calling it quits on sinking oil money into Inter.

The money certainly isn't there for Serie A to try and buy their way up to Liga and PL standards, so now they're probing Mediapro and the Spanish outfit's seductive promises.

Can it really be true? If you cut the middleman out - the evil tv network who wants to force a package of movie, news and cartoon channels onto the Serie A fan who just wants to watch football - do you really uncover more ready and willing fans, viewers and subscribers who were just waiting for you to knock on their door (or their email inbox)? Is this really the new way to watch football that neither England nor Spain have fully embraced yet? Are Italy getting in on the act ahead of everyone else?

Well, with Sky and Mediaset lowballing Serie A with their bids this January, the league chiefs' reasoning was decided for them: at this point, it costs nothing to find out.

Of course, both the Lega and Mediapro actually have to hold firm against any Sky hijacking of this deal. Mediapro would have to resist temptation to immediately re-sell some games to Sky in getting some of their money back.

If they don't resist, you can't fully take anyone's promises to want the best for the long-term health of Serie A seriously when they're still looking out for the safe option in the short-term.

2. The international TV deal sold towards the end of last year, to media agency IMG, is another deal working on that old marketing promise to "innovate". Lega A actually accepted less money from IMG on the promise that the media sports giant know how to break new ground; there's the promise of knowing how to make Serie A more attractive to viewers outside of Italy (from the sounds of US-based CdTers, making it easier to watch on BeIn or elsewhere would be a start). That's an even more ambiguous promise that will have to pan out into something tangible over the next three years.

3. The final change is within the league itself, and how the TV money is now shared out. This is far more tangible and you'll have to go to the link at Calcio e Finanza to see the table as I'm not even sure hotlinking the images is allowed on CdT.

The new money share format promotes competition for league places, and a bigger share for the smaller to mid-table clubs. The old TV deals were split with a 40% upfront equal share of money to all 20 teams participating in each season. The remaining share of the money was split based on fanbase in Italy (30%), historical success of each club (10%), 5-year season performances (15%) and 1-year season performance (5%). The old format left Roma falling behind Juventus and the two Milanese clubs on the fanbase front especially, as the Lupi still are only the 5th biggest supported club in the land.

Now the new deal reduces the fanbase share of the money down from 30% to 20%, reduces the historical success share down from 10% to 5%, and reduces the 5-year performance share of each club down from 15% to 10%. That 20% taken out of those three pots goes into increasing the equal money share upfront from 40 to 50%, and the "last season" performance share of each club going up from 5% to 15%. This not only favours newly promoted clubs to go for it like the Sassuolos of the last few years, or even the SPALs of this season, but also favours Roma.

The Lupi now potentially earn 11 million more euros next season, while also bridging the gap between themselves and Juve by 27 million euros (under the old deal Juve would have earnt 38 million more euros than Roma each season, under this new deal Juve looks like earning just 11 million euros more than Roma for next season).

Throw in a new shirt sponsor, a potential 15 million euros more from the CL TV money pot for getting past Shakhtar in the Round of 16, and consider that Roma made +52 million euros on transfers in the last two transfer windows, and this club may actually get to do player sales on its own terms this summer...

...Hey, to dream is free.