I790 - A 66 million euro fine imposed on Sky, Mediaset Premium, Lega and Infront by the Italian Competition Authority




The Italian Competition Authority imposed fines totalling 66 million Euros on Sky and RTI/Mediaset Premium, the main television operators in the pay-tv market, and on the Italian Football League (Lega Calcio) and its advisorInfront. The ICA found that the parties infringed Article 101 TFEU, as in June 2014 they entered into a bid-rigging agreement concerning the award of the Serie A broadcasting rights for the following three years (2015-2018). The parties agreed to alter the outcome of the tenders for the A, B and D lots, following the presentation of their bids on June 5th. The ICA investigation was launched on May 13th 2015.

According to the ICA’s findings, Lega Calcio - advised and supported by Infront – instead of awarding to Sky the broadcasting rights in line with the submitted bids, engaged in a negotiation with the bidders, aimed at altering the outcome of the tender.

As RTI/Mediaset Premium would not be awarded any lots on the basis of their bids, they were ready to join the collusive agreement since the very first moment.

Sky, while also joining the market sharing agreement, was initially strongly opposed to the other parties’ initiatives– and kept a cooperative attitude vis-à-vis the competition agency, throughout the latter’s investigation.

While Lega Calcio applied to the ICA for an authorisation to sub-license the D lot (as imposed by the applicable regulatory framework), such authorisation could not trigger any legitimate expectation as to the lawfulness of the anticompetitive conduct of the parties, which had never been disclosed to the ICA.

This agreement led to the apportionment of the relevant market between the two incumbents, thus frustrating the objectives pursued by the legislator through the provision of a competitive procedure. As a result of the agreement, both the incumbents were awarded television rights and new market entry was foreclosed both as a result of the tender (since Eurosport could otherwise compete for the award of lot D) and in the future (as bid-rigging negatively affects the credibility of future calls for tenders and, therefore, potential new market entry, thus discouraging competition on the merits).

The anticompetitive agreement, inasmuch as it altered the outcome of the tender thwarting the procedures set by Decree no. 9/2008, affected the allocation of strategic resources in the pay TV and advertising markets. Therefore, the agreement was deemed restrictive by object and very serious, in line with national and European case law.

Finally, the ICA shared the view expressed by the national TLC Regulator that “the Guidelines foreseen by Decree no. 9/2008 need to become more effective, in the context of an overarching reform of the applicable regulatory framework, with a view to further igniting competition dynamics in the sector concerned.

The table below illustrates the final amounts of the fines imposed by the ICA on each of the offenders.

Party Fine (Euros)
Lega 1,944,070.17
Infront Italy S.r.l. 9,049,646.64
RTI/Mediaset Premium 51,419,247.25
Sky Italia S.r.l. 4,000,000.00

  Rome, 20 April 2016