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AEK threatens break from Nova amid broadcaster’s impending takeover

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - SEPTEMBER 19: Captain, Petros Mantalos of AEK Athens in action. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Greek Super League 1 football side AEK Athens has threatened to cancel its contract with pay-television broadcaster Nova and create its own channel if the broadcaster’s proposed sale is completed.

The broadcaster’s parent company – Greek internet provider Forthnet – is currently in advanced takeover negotiations with Alter Ego Media, the media business of Greek shipping and media tycoon Evangelos Marinakis.

Marinakis has been a divisive figure in Greek football through his ownership of top-tier side Olympiacos. AEK Athens president Evangelos Aslanidis has voiced his displeasure about the owner of one of AEK Athens’ principal rivals in Greek football indirectly owning his club’s broadcasting rights.

It is understood this is at the heart of AEK Athens’ threats to break away from its Nova deal.

Aslanidis has said the club is in conversation with Athens’ regional broadcaster Attica TV about launching the channel which would be called ‘AEK Fans TV’. The channel is also expected to be an online proposition.

Nova currently holds the rights to AEK Athens home matches until 2021 as well as the rights to seven other SL1 sides.

Reports across Greek media have suggested that Marinakis would take on Forthnet’s debts of up to €300m ($334.2m) and pay €42m for a 35-per-cent stake.

The acquisition is being investigated by the Hellenic Competition Commission as there are fears it could lead to a monopoly for Nova in the market given public broadcaster ERT’s hamstrung financial power.

Nova and ERT currently share the rights to the majority of the SL1 teams, though ERT had its funding slashed by the new government which led to it renegotiating a number of deals earlier this year.

The fear is that Nova would then be able to offer much larger sums than ERT would be able to.

AEK Athens’ move would not be unprecedented in Greek football as fellow Super League 1 side PAOK rejected a broadcast deal from Nova in favour of launching its own channel.

PAOK has spent the season broadcasting its home matches on a newly launched OTT platform after failing to agree a rights deal for the 2019-20 season. Individual matches on PAOK TV are priced at €4.99 with a half-season pass now priced at €69 for the club’s remaining home games this season.