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Sky, Mediaset reach Serie B agreement

Appeal of Italy's soccer league second-tier to auds boosted by Juventus relegation

ROME — Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia and Mediaset reached a deal in principle worth nearly Euros 50 million ($64 million) to broadcast over 200 matches of Italy’s Serie B profes-sional soccer this season, officials familiar with the negotiations said on Friday.

The final details are expected to be hammered out as soon as next week, including provisions on encrypting the broadcast signals for satellite and digital terrestrial broadcast. A final contract may not be ratified until January, a league official added, but matches are expected to be broadcast long before then.

If the deal is reached as expected it would be the first time that all second division Serie B matches are shown on TV in Italy, a major boost for many cash-strapped clubs and it would represent a major victory for the league. Last month, league officials threatened to postpone the season unless a league-wide TV contract could be reached.

“A gentleman’s agreement has been reached that would enable Sky to broadcast all the matches on satellite and Mediaset to broadcast the matches of Juventus, Genoa and Naples, their home and away games,” an official at Lega Calcio said.

The Euros 50 million, which in-cludes the rights to broadcast high-lights for the next two seasons and live matches for this season, would repre-sent a near three-fold increase in revenues for the league over last year’s contract, held by Sportitalia. Sportitalia dropped out of the negotiation re-cently.

Oddly, Serie B is one of the few benefactors of a match-fixing scandal this summer that forced the demotion of one-time soccer powerhouse Juventus from the top league. With Juventus in Serie B now, plus recent promotions by popular clubs Naples and Genoa, the interest in broadcasting matches has never been greater, the league official said.

But it’s unclear how long the euphoria over Serie B football will last. Sky and Mediaset have only signed on for one year, as opposed to the normal three years. And, the league has yet to figure out how to share the broadcast money equally with each club, a major point of contention among the smaller club owners.

But there is promise. Mediaset chief Pier Silvio Berlusconi and Lega Calcio chairman Antonio Mattarese have been negotiating to bring all Serie B match broadcasts to digital terrestrial TV alongside the satellite broadcasts.

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