For the first time ever, Italian state broadcaster RAI will not transmit the FIFA Football World Cup.
Commercial rival Mediaset has won the exclusive rights to air the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia in Italy as well as in Spain. Mediaset has promised it will broadcast all 64 matches of the tournament, which takes place from 14th June to 15th July, free-to-air.
The rights for the previous World Cup were shared by RAI and satellite pay-TV broadcaster Sky Italia.
The Italian national team has not qualified for next year’s tournament, for the first time since 1958, resulting in a 50 per cent drop in the value of the bids by Italian broadcasters. According to local media reports, Mediaset paid €78 million for the TV rights, with RAI bidding significantly less in an attempt to balance its budget.
However, the Italian state broadcaster is close to reaching a deal with Sky Italia (which holds the UEFA Champions League TV rights for the period 2018-2021) to air one match a week, free-to-air on its flagship channel Rai Uno. It also plans to bid next year for the TV rights to the Italian Cup for the next three seasons.
RAI has also signed a sub-licensing agreement with Discovery Communications for the FTA rights to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang (with an option for the 2018 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo).