DAZN has finally clinched the majority vote to broadcast every single Serie A game from 2021 to 2024 after 16 out of 20 Lega Serie A clubs voted in favor of accepting the new broadcaster’s offer. The new TV deal is a mixed slate of news, as the Lega failed on several of their most ambitious targets and yet put a spectacular end to their 18-year longstanding relationship with Sky Italia as the premier broadcaster of domestic Italian football coverage.
In the end, only Genoa, Crotone, Sampdoria, and Sassuolo voted against accepting DAZN’s offer. Though Roma was one of the last clubs to finally jump ship onto a “yes” vote, after being against the deal for weeks.
The DAZN Era: New Risks and Less Money in Uncertain Times
DAZN’s winning bid will see the new broadcaster hand over €840 million per season for the next three seasons, for the right to hold Lot 1 (seven exclusively live games per matchday round) and Lot 3 (three jointly broadcast games per matchday round) of the total 3 lots of matches on offer at this year’s TV rights auction. The final lot still up for grabs, Lot 2, will likely go to Sky Italia by the beginning of next week. It’s believed Sky will hand around €70 million per season—as reported by Calcio e Finanza—for Lot 2, which contains the right to jointly broadcast 3 games per matchday round alongside DAZN’s Lot 3.
What does this all mean on the bottom line in plain speak?
First off, even though Sky may not be completely out of the picture, it means every single Serie A game will be broadcast live on DAZN for Italian-based viewers. Second, this is a big testing ground for Italian viewership over the next three years, as DAZN is likely to make all Serie A games viewable via their online streaming platform, where Italian buyers can essentially pay-to-play without taking on the burden of extra TV subscriptions packages they don’t want outside of football.
That will be the litmus test for Sampdoria owner Massimo Ferrero’s suggestion that 60% of Italian football viewers (thought to be 40 years old or above) simply don’t like the internet, and won’t want to adapt to new media any time soon. There are also serious concerns over the state of fiber-optic internet in Italy, and the realistic ability to handle the high-speed demands that it would take to stream DAZN games over the web. We’ll find over the next three summers but, if Italian-based viewers do adapt to new media with a healthy appetite, then this could open the door for new players like Amazon, Roku, and other streaming platforms to bid on Italian football by 2024.
That is all speculation for now, however, as there as some undeniable defeats racked up for the Lega by accepting this deal.
It took several weeks of haggling to get the majority of clubs on board with this campaign, as the Lega put aside its more ambitious aim of setting up a media-rights holding company, and then selling the TV rights to international private funds in other for those groups to then re-sell the rights for even more upsell, in turn. Instead, by accepting DAZN’s straightforward offer, the Lega has chosen to stay the path on the traditional league-broadcaster relationship without trying to open any new income streams of the league’s own. But that isn’t the only loss suffered by the Lega in this new deal.
The bottom line here is that the final total income brought in over the next three seasons is likely to be less than the existing deal that the Lega holds with Sky and DAZN until the summer of 2021, The last time the domestic TV rights went to auction, Sky handed over €780 million per season and UK-based Perform handed over a further €193 million per season for the remaining lot. Perform launched Eleven Sports online, which folded within months and saw DAZN take over the obligations of being the minority Serie A broadcaster in its place. But the current deal brought in a total of just over €2.9 billion per season.
Sink or Swim: The Death of FFP Ahead?
The new DAZN deal is bringing in about 400 million less than that over the next three seasons, and it is unlikely that the remaining sale of Lot 2 will make up that difference. Clearly, the Lega felt that the uncertainty of the current pandemic meant it wasn’t the time to be taking speculative risks by trying to re-sell rights in a shrinking market and took the safer route of money upfront. But the new deal won’t be doing the Friedkin’s any favors with Roma’s accounts, as the Eternal City club now has to find yet more money elsewhere to make up for a loss of income over the next three years.
Such a defeat for all clubs nationwide can only give more fuel to the fire started by the Gazzetta dello Sport, this week (via Calcio e Finanza), when the newspaper launched a speculative rumour that UEFA are now considering scrapping Financial Fair Play altogether, rather than just suspending the FFP rules until January 2022 as currently planned. The current FFP dynamics seem unsustainable not just for Italy’s clubs, but clubs on the worldwide panorama of football. It’s rumored that UEFA are considering bringing in new rules centered around enforcing a transfer-spending cap and a wage cap for all clubs.
In the more immediate term, it remains to be seen whether the loss of TV income will see Serie A become even less competitive against Europe’s other Top 5 leagues or not. It all looks to be a matter of timing, as the economic crunch on football has hit Italy but could yet hit other footballing nations in similar fashion.