ROME — Chalk one up for Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia satcaster, which has won a key ruling over World Cup soccer rights against rival Mediaset Premium, controlled by Silvio Berlusconi.
A Paris arbitration court has rejected Mediaset’s legal suit claiming that Sky broke EU competition rules by snapping up all rights to the FIFA 2010 South Africa World Cup tournament, and refusing to resell the DTT rights, which it did not use.
According to Mediaset, under EU rules established in 2003 when Sky Italia entered the Italian market as a pay TV monopolist, Sky could not shut out rivals in this way.
But the arbitrators ruled that those rules, due to expire this year, did not apply to the soccer World Cup, deemed as not crucial to competition, since it is held once every four years.
The ruling ups the ante for future soccer bidding wars between Sky and Mediaset Premium, a DTT pay TV service that bowed in 2005.
Sky Italia has already shut out Mediaset and pubcaster RAI from UEFA Champions League soccer for three years, starting in 2012, by paying $172 million for exclusive rights, triple what its previous non-exclusive UEFA package cost.
Sky and RAI have split the rights package to the 2014 World Cup tourney in Brazil, with the bulk of games going to Sky and Mediaset again shut out.
The heat is already on over exclusivity to Italy’s key Serie A matches, though both Sky and Mediaset have rights through 2015.