MILAN :Serie A's clubs agreed on Friday to launch their own Arabic-language channel on YouTube to live-stream some matches in the Middle East and North Africa as Italy's top-flight soccer league faces a stalemate over the sale of TV rights in the region.
Serie A, home to Juventus, AC Milan and Inter, has been trying for months to break a deadlock over the sale of rights to screen its matches over the next three seasons across a market which includes territories such as Egypt, Morocco and the Gulf States.
But Qatari broadcaster beIn has been reluctant to join the tender process, while talks with media group Saudi Sports Company over a broadcasting deal have been fruitless, sources have said previously, leaving an accord ahead of the Aug. 21 season start elusive.
The league "has decided to proceed with the creation of an Arabic-language channel on the YouTube platform," Serie A said in a statement, following a teleconferenced meeting, confirming what sources told Reuters earlier on Friday.
The planned back-up deal with Google-owned video platform YouTube, which is not expected to generate a sizeable income, could last up to one year and will be suspended if the league clinches a deal to sell its pay-TV licenses in the region, the people said.
Under the previous three-year cycle, Serie A collected 970 million euros (US$1.14 billion) in adjusted revenue from the sale of international TV rights licenses. So far the Italian league has secured contracts worth around 640 million for screening live matches abroad during the 2021-2024 period.
The risk of a revenue shortfall stemming from the stalemate in the Middle East market comes at a time when many clubs are in demand of fresh resources to cope with the fallout of the pandemic.
That could prompt Serie A to consider a revival of talks to sell a stake in its media business to private equity investors, the sources said.
Last year, Serie A agreed in principle a 1.7 billion euro deal to sell a 10per cent stake of its media business to a pool of investors including private equity firm CVC but the sale was not finalised due to opposition from some clubs, including Juventus.
Meanwhile CVC clinched a similar deal with Spain's top soccer League La Liga.
"It was not a matter of discussion today, but I definitely expect some clubs will push to reconsider a deal with private equity investors in September," a club official who participated in Serie A's Friday meeting, but did not wish to be identified, told Reuters.
(US$1 = 0.8512 euros)
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, editing by Agnieszka Flak and Susan Fenton)