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By Elisa Anzolin and Elvira Pollina
MILAN, Sept 9 (Reuters) – Italy’s Serie A soccer clubs agreed on Wednesday to set up a new media company to handle the league’s broadcast rights and are deciding between two rival private equity bids seeking a stake in the business, club officials said.
Looking for ways to lift flagging revenues and weather the coronavirus crisis, Serie A has asked investors to submit bids to buy a minority stake in a newly-created media company that would market broadcast rights to top-flight Italian soccer.
At a closed door meeting in Milan, the clubs voted unanimously to carry out further reviews on two separate bids led by CVC Capital Partners and Bain Capital, which value a 10% stake in Serie A’s media businesses at up to 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion), according to sources familiar with the matter.
Torino FC Chairman Urbano Cairo said the clubs will decide within 2-3 weeks which bid to accept for investment in the unit, which will control the league’s broadcasting rights business for the next 10 years.
Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino sees the creation of a new media company as a way to boost revenue, especially abroad, where in recent years Italian soccer has struggled to match the drawing power of rival European leagues.
With the coronavirus crisis slashing matchday revenues by forcing teams to play without supporters, television broadcast rights have become even more vital to Europe’s big league clubs.
But they too have been threatened as broadcasters around the world have responded to shrinking advertising revenues by cutting back on spending, leaving Italy facing the risk of falling further behind.
More than half of Serie A revenues come from broadcasting rights, but the league lags the financial heavyweights of England’s Premier League, La Liga in Spain and the German Bundesliga.
Under a contract expiring next year, the Italian league raised 1.35 billion euros ($1.6 billion) from selling last season’s broadcasting rights against the 3.5 billion euros raised by the Premier League. ($1 = 0.8462 euros) (Reporting by Elvira Pollina, Elisa Anzolin Editing by Keith Weir)
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