Berlusconi wants soccer money back

Mediaset claims scandal devalued TV rights

ROME — Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset has taken legal action against Italy’s soccer league, claiming there has been a depreciation in value of TV rights following a game-rigging scandal.

The scandal, known as Calciopoli, broke last summer and uncovered a wide web of payola and corrupt referees, prompting the expulsion of Juventus, the Italian club with the most pennants, from the current season’s top tourney.

As a result, “There has been a strong loss in viewer interest toward the Serie A championship, which means a strong reduction in market value of the rights,” Italy’s top commercial web lamented in a statement.

Mediaset cited a 17.5% drop in Serie A stadium season ticket sales, a 15% drop in pay TV rights value and, conversely, a 52% increase in the value of pay TV rights for second-tier Serie B, where Juventus is currently playing.

Mediaset is believed to have paid Italy’s Federazione Italiana Gioco Calcio soccer league some $80 million for 2006-07 season terrestrial rights to highlights of the bulk of the Serie A teams, excluding several deals negotiated directly with some top teams, such as Berlusconi’s A.C. Milan.

Last year Mediaset inked an all-rights 2007-08 season deal with Juventus, which by then will be back in Serie A, worth $250 million.

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