Sky Italia wins European soccer rights

Pay TV company pays $172 million for Champion League matches

Sky Italia has ponied up €130 million ($172 million) for exclusive rights in Italy to the UEFA Champions League soccer tournament for three years beginning 2012 — paying three times what it spent for the previous rights.

The Rupert Murdoch-controlled paybox will broadcast two of the three live match packages, as well as the nonexclusive Tuesday and Wednesday highlights programs for the 2012-15 seasons.

UEFA rejected bids by pubcaster RAI and Mediaset, the broadcaster owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, as too low after two rounds of bidding.

Mediaset immediately lodged a complaint with the antitrust authority, alleging the deal would make Sky too dominant in the digital terrestrial TV sector.

The European Union has already limited Sky’s ability to offer pay DTT content to prevent it becoming too powerful in this market.

TV analyst Alessandro Bai Badino of Deutsche Bank predicted the deal might yet backfire on Sky.

“There’s an air of desperation about Sky paying so much for these rights when last time they paid $53 million. I think there’s a very good chance the antitrust agency will not allow it,” he said.

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