DAZN to screen Italian football's top league

DAZN to screen Italian football's top league

Streaming service DAZN will screen Serie A football matches in Italy next season, a landmark deal in the push by digital groups to challenge traditional broadcasters in the global battle over sports rights.

DAZN, part of by Perform Group, a UK-based sports media company owned by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, won the domestic screening rights to 114 top-tier Italian football matches a season between 2018 and 2021.

The majority of Serie A games will continue to be shown in the country on Sky Italia, however, the deal means DAZN will be able to show three matches a week — far more than other digital services have acquired for any of Europe’s biggest football leagues.

A person close to the deal said Perform would pay about €600m in total for the three-year deal. It is unclear how much Sky Italia has paid or the sum Serie A has made in total.

“To secure a premium set of soccer rights in any European market is a significant moment,” said James Rushton, chief executive of DAZN.

DAZN will use the Serie A deal to launch its subscription streaming service in Italy, planning to spend hundreds of millions of euros in broadcasting production and marketing.

The sports streaming service is more firmly established in markets such as Japan, Germany and Canada, but has been buying up rights around the world to underpin expansion plans.

Last month, Perform struck an eight-year, $1bn deal with Matchroom Boxing, the boxing promotions group run by Eddie Hearn, to stream boxing fights on DAZN’s new US subscription service.

Technology groups are pushing into live sport, challenging traditional broadcasters which have used them to underpin their subscription packages to consumers.

Last week, Amazon acquired the rights to show 60 English Premier League matches in the UK over three seasons, the first time a big digital company has entered the market for the most-watched competition in Britain.

Amazon also outbid Sky to win exclusive UK rights for men’s tennis world tour matches this year in a deal worth a reported $40m, while in the US it has reached a $130m deal with the NFL to screen American football matches on Thursday nights for the next two seasons.

Facebook and Twitter have also bid for global sports rights, including for NFL games and Indian Premier League cricket.

Perform was listed in the UK in 2011 but taken private by Access in 2014 for £702m. The group recently hit a £3bn valuation when it sold a 10 per cent stake to Dentsu, the Japanese advertising group, for £300m, in a deal that made it the UK’s most valuable technology start-up.

The bidding process for Serie A rights has been mired in controversy. Italy’s top division in March announced all of its three-year domestic screening rights had been sold to the Spanish group Mediapro for €1.05bn a year, beating the league’s current broadcast partners Sky and Mediaset.

Sky successfully appealed against the decision in a Milan court on competition grounds, leading the Italian league to cancel its contract with Mediapro and relaunch the auction.

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