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Sports: Serie A to discuss media rights business sale; Baseball return sets records for ESPN; Ligue 1 channel reportedly to get Facebook distribution; RTÉ Sport teams with LOI for OTT platform

The clubs from Italy’s Serie A are reportedly set to meet this week to discuss investor bids for the league’s media business.

According to Reuters, representatives from the 20 clubs will meet on July 30 to discuss a number of proposals that were invited last week. The league had asked investors to submit bids to buy up to 15% of a newly created media firm which will control the league’s broadcast rights.

It is believed that private equity firms CVC, Bain Capital, Advent International, TPG, Apollo and General Atlantic were all invited to submit bids, with the cited source saying that other investors including Fortress and Blackstone’s credit business GSO are also expected to express an interest.

A separate source also said that Chinese firm Wanda Sports is looking to launch a project which would improve the league’s global distribution and launch a multiplatform channel.

While Serie A is one of the world’s largest football leagues, it is significantly behind the other top European divisions for revenue. A report from Deloitte found that while the EPL makes €3.5 billion from broadcast rights sales, Serie A only managed €1.5 billion last season.

Baseball return sets records for ESPN

Disney-owned sports broadcaster ESPN said that the opening night of the 2020 MLB season has broken records.

The broadcaster said that 4 million people tuned in to watch the New York Yankees take on the Washington Nationals on Thursday, with that audience being the biggest opening-night viewership on record.

The match, delayed by four months, saw an audience more than triple the number of people who watched the first match of the 2019 season and was the most-watched ballgame since 2011.

The second match – the San Francisco Giants vs the Los Angeles Dodgers – attracted nearly 2.8 million viewers on average.

The 2020 MLB season will be almost a third the length of a typical season, with teams playing 60 regular season matches rather than the typical 162.

Despite an increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the US, sports leagues around the country are getting back to playing, with the NBA and MLS both set to resume from within the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Ligue 1 channel reportedly to get Facebook distribution

Rights agency Mediapro has reportedly tied up a distribution deal with Facebook that will see its new Ligue 1-dedicated pay TV channel have some form of a home on the social media site.

According to L’Équipe, the deal will give Facebook access to the channel, but there are no details on any exclusivity or whether it will cover highlights or live games.

Last month, Mediapro announced a partnership with TF1 to launch a new channel Téléfoot. The channel will offer live and exclusive coverage of the top French football league, including more than 80% of matches. The channel will also broadcast 8 matches of the French Ligue 2 per day.

It will launch at the start of the 2020/21 Ligue 1 season, currently scheduled for August.

Mediapro boss Jaume Roures had previously indicated a willingness to partnering with a streaming platform, with it looking likely that Ligue 1 content is headed for Facebook Watch.

This would be the latest rights grab for Facebook’s budding streaming platform, with it having non-live deals with the International Cricket Council (ICC), Conmebol, and the NBA. It also has the live rights to the Copa Libertadores in some Latin American countries and is the primary broadcaster of La Liga in India.

It is believed that Mediapro is looking for non-exclusive carriage deals for Téléfoot with minimum guarantees of €100 million per season. L’Equippe also reported that it is in talks with Free and Orange, and that talks with Canal+ have broken down.

RTÉ Sport teams with LOI for OTT platform

Irish pubcaster RTÉ Sport has teamed up with the League of Ireland (LOI), Ireland’s top football league, for the launch of a new streaming service.

The service, called WatchLOI, will broadcast more than 55 matches per season domestically including all of the Premier Division matches that are not being shown by pay-TV broadcaster Eir Sport. RTÉ will handle production and will also broadcast select fixtures on its linear and digital channels

The deal was signed-off by the Football Association of Ireland (FAI), and will also include broadcast rights to selected FAI Cup matches.

WatchLOI will be available for €55 per season, or single pay-per-view matches for €5 each. The service will also be available internationally for €69 per season, and this will include all matches – including those broadcast by Eir.

It will launch in concert with the resumption of the Irish Premier Division on July 31.

Declan McBennett, RTÉ’s head of sport, said: “In these uncertain times, when dedicated fans are unable to attend games in large numbers, we are delighted to bring the games directly to them via WatchLOI. This is a chance for the whole of the Irish footballing family to get behind the SSE Airtricity League and lend their support in every way to the clubs as the heartbeat of the association.”

Mark Russell, the FAI’s commercial and marketing director, added: “Working with RTÉ Sport and GAAGO will guarantee that we will have a best-in-class product which SSE Airtricity League supporters will be able to enjoy around the world.”