Sky Italia in Proceedings Concerning the Licensing of Rights to Broadcast Italian Soccer Matches

February 24, 2010

On February 24, the Court of Appeal of Milan overruled its previous decision of November 4, 2009, which, by upholding the request for interim measures filed by Conto TV, had suspended the assignment to Sky Italia of the live satellite broadcasting rights for the Italian Serie A football league for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.

In July 2009, such broadcasting rights (valued at over €570 million per season) were awarded to Sky Italia following a competitive procedure launched by Lega Nazionale Professionisti, the association of the Italian football teams, with the assistance of its advisor Infront Italy.

On November 4, 2009, the Court of Appeal ruled that the competitive procedure for the assignment of the satellite broadcasting rights of both Serie A and Serie B could amount, prima facie, to a violation of antitrust rules and, therefore, blocked the assignment to Sky Italia of the Serie A rights and ordered Lega Nazionale Professionisti to suspend the negotiations for the assignment of the Serie B rights.

Lega Nazionale Professionisti appealed the decision and Sky Italia intervened for the first time in the appeal, while Infront Italy had already intervened in the previous phase.

On February 24, the Court of Appeal ruled that the pleas of lack of jurisdiction raised by Sky Italia, Lega Nazionale Professionisti and Infront Italy were well-grounded, because the assignment of live broadcasting rights for the Italian football leagues has an impact on trade between Member States and, therefore, the lower courts (in particular, the IP section of the Milan Tribunal) have exclusive jurisdiction on the matter, according to Italian law. Therefore, the Court of Appeal revoked its previous injunction and ordered Conto TV to bear all the costs of the proceedings, including attorneys’ fees of the other parties.

This decision is crucial for the development of the Italian pay-TV market, because it enables Sky Italia to compete with the other pay-TV operators in Italy in the live broadcasting of Italian Serie A football games for the next two seasons. Moreover, the decision is a key-precedent on the applicability of EU competition rules by Italian courts.