On 8 July 2021, the Italian Competition Authority (“AGCM”) opened an antitrust probe against TIM (the Italian incumbent telecom operator) and DAZN (the live sports streaming service) for possible anti-competitive behaviours stemming from the TV rights agreement between the two companies to broadcast the Serie A football matches for the 2021-2024 period.
Under the broadcasting agreement, TIM is the only telecoms operator able to host the DAZN App on its devices and to offer the DAZN services via its own Internet audio-visual platform, TIMVision.
Therefore, according the AGCM’s preliminary view, the agreement between TIM and DAZN may have significant repercussions not only on the pay-tv market, but also on the broadband market.
With relation to the first one, the AGCM, in opening the probe, stated that the clauses of the agreement limiting DAZN from offering its services to other platforms and from offering eventual discounts could be potentially restrictive of competition in the market..
While on the broadband market the AGCM recognized a risk of consumers being drawn by TIM, considering the high attractiveness of Serie A football matches. The AGCM is indeed concerned that consumers may be prevented from freely choosing their internet connectivity provider and how to use DAZN services, thus suffering a prejudice both economical and in terms of the variety of technological solutions available.
TIM competitors (Vodafone Italia, Wind3, Fastweb and Sky Italia) had also complained, in this regard, that, following the agreement with DAZN, TIM ends up being the only telecom operator in the Italian market being able to both host and offer discounts on DAZN app and content.
TIM competitors alleged exclusivity may have negative repercussions on final consumers on the one side and undermine DAZN interest in cooperating with TIM’s competitors to improve its services on the other side. Given that the complainants will not be able to integrate DAZN app on their devices, they are arguing that the DAZN service quality will be hindered.
When opening the investigation, the AGCM also launched a secondary linked proceeding to investigate the eventual need to adopt precautionary measures.
On 28 July, this precautionary proceeding was closed by the AGCM, who considered the measures submitted by TIM and DAZN adequate “to prevent considerable and irreparable damages to competition during the investigation”, as well as to ensure consumers are left with the possibility to choose among various alternatives and to guarantee the best quality of service.
In particular, TIM and DAZN have committed to make sure that, as of 1 August 2021, there will be no need to subscribe with TIM, even if the DAZN contents will be provided via the TIMVision platform.
In addition, DAZN has guaranteed that it will carry out the necessary infrastructure investments to ensure that its services will be available to all users who have installed the DAZN app, regardless of the reference company. In case of technical connection issues, DAZN services will also be made available via digital terrestrial.
Last but not least, both operators have guaranteed that DAZN will maintain the commercial freedom to offer discounts and promotions for the services offered.
The AGCM will monitor that the commitments taken by the two parties of the agreements will be effectively implemented, while keeping investigating the most controversial clauses of the agreement in the main proceeding, that is still on-going.