Sky Italia continues fight against exclusive internet rights ban

Sanification of an official Serie A soccer ball in L'Aquila, Italy on June 12, 2020. (Photo Illustration by Lorenzo Di Cola/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Italian pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia has filed an appeal against a ruling from Italy’s highest administrative court (CdS) that upheld a ban preventing it from acquiring exclusive internet rights to sports properties.

The broadcaster filed its appeal to the CdS which if successful would revoke a ruling from Italy’s antitrust authority (AGCM) banning Sky Italia from acquiring exclusive internet rights until at least 2022.

Sky Italia argues that the ruling handed down in this case was based on facts from previous cases that don’t bear significant relation to this one and as such the ruling was flawed, reports Italian newspaper Corriere della Serra.

If Sky Italia’s appeal fails, it will have a direct impact on the 2021-24 Serie A rights sales process, which is expected to begin in the autumn. The tender was originally scheduled to launch in April, but was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sky jointly holds the domestic Serie A rights with OTT platform DAZN in the current 2018-21 cycle. The pair’s rights to the country’s top-tier of domestic football are worth €973m ($1.1bn) per season.

The original ruling was handed down in May 2019 as a condition of Sky Italia’s agreement with commercial broadcaster Mediaset on the future of the latter’s DTT platform, R2. Mediaset agreed to sell R2, the company operating the pay-television infrastructure of the Mediaset Premium OTT platform.

The AGCM said that the acquisition created “obvious” and “irreversible” anti-competitive effects in the Italian market. As a result, the authority imposed the ban on Sky Italia in an attempt to create a short-term competitive market for internet rights in Italy.

The pay-television broadcaster filed its first appeal against the ruling four months ago to the regional administrative court of Lazio (TAR). The TAR overturned the AGCM’s ruling following the hearing on February 12.

Following the TAR’s intervention, the case was then taken to Italy’s highest administrative court which reinstated the AGCM’s original ruling.