MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s Serie A soccer clubs agreed on Wednesday to set up a new media company to handle the broadcast rights for top-flight Italian soccer and are deciding between two rival private equity bids seeking a stake in the business, club officials said.
Serie A hopes the new company will improve governance and boost revenue, especially abroad, where in recent years Italian soccer has struggled to match the drawing power of rival European leagues.
It has invited bids for a minority stake and on Wednesday the clubs voted to review two separate bids led by CVC Capital Partners and Bain Capital <BCSF.N> for a 10% stake in Serie A’s media businesses, club officials said.
The 10% stake in the company, which will control the league’s broadcasting rights business for the next 10 years, is valued at up to 1.6 billion euros ($1.9 billion), according to sources familiar with the matter.
“We have decided to create a media company having a private equity firm as a partner,” Serie A president Paolo Dal Pino told a news conference, adding that there will be meetings soon to discuss issues including the business plan.
Torino FC Chairman Urbano Cairo said the clubs would decide within 2-3 weeks which bid to accept.
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.
They too have been threatened, however, as broadcasters around the world have responded to shrinking advertising revenues by cutting 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.
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.
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, Elisa Anzolin,; Editing by Keith Weir and Ed Osmond)