On 13 May 2015, the Italian Competition Authority (the “ICA”), opened an in-depth investigation into the market of media rights to the Italian Premier League “Serie A”, for infringements of Article 101 TFEU, the prohibition of anti-competitive agreements.
The Italian entities involved in the investigation are: The association “Lega Nazionale Professionisti di Serie A” (“Lega”) and the companies Infront Italy S.r.l. (“Infront”), Sky Italia S.r.l. (“Sky”) and Reti Televisive Italiane S.p.A. (“RTI”) along with its controlled company Mediaset Premium S.p.A. (the “Accused Companies”).
The Lega, which is the association representing the football clubs participating in the “Serie A”, is entrusted by the Italian law with the task of the joint selling of the commercial rights of Serie A.
The joint selling is allegedly organised by Infront and was made through public tenders where different packages of rights were sold. The Lega and Infront set up three packages of rights (“A”, “B”, “D”,). According to the outcome of the tender, Sky made the best offers for packages “A” and “B” while for package “D” there were no valid offers.
In this case, given the lack of valid offers for package (“D”), the Lega could start another tender, invalidating the awarding of packages “A” and “B”.
Following the renewal of the tender process, the media rights to the “Serie A” were awarded through an agreement among the abovementioned entities (included the Lega and Infront), according to which Sky would obtain the packages “A” and “D” while RTI the package “B”.
The ICA found that this agreement may be anti-competitive since it was a “snapshot” of the situation existing before the tender, impeding other competitors from entering the media rights market and the other connected markets (pay-tv and commercials).
Therefore, the ICA believes that the conduct may raise serious issues regarding its compatibility with Article 101 TFEU. In fact, any agreement not to compete with competitors would fall within provisions which forbid collusive tendering.
The alleged wrongdoing is not proven at this stage and the investigation continues.