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Sky Italia Football deal angers RAI and Italian general public

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International soccer governing body FIFA unveiled a clutch of major broadcast deals Wednesday in numerous territories, including Italy, the U.K. and Germany, for the 2010 World Cup games.

In Italy, FIFA's decision to award rights to Italy's sole satellite

provider, Sky Italia, created immediate controversy as it only served to continue the war over Italian soccer broadcast rights.

According to Italian news reports, Sky Italia, which is part of Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp holdings, had a winning bid for the 2010 World Cup of €165 million ($200 million) while RAI lost out with a €150 million ($182 million) bid. There was an uproar last month after Sky announced that it had acquired rights to all the games for next year's World Cup in Germany, making 2006 the first time Italian soccer fanatics will be required to have a monthly subscription to Sky to see all 62 games.

In a series of statements, RAI representatives were both incredulous and crying foul Wednesday. "RAI was not outdone because of an inferior offer, as should be the case in a classic market law," said Sandro Curzi, interim president of RAI's board of directors. "(We were outdone) by a global, political strategy to benefit private operators like Murdoch and to penalize a national public service," he said. A spokesman for Sky declined comment.

Meanwhile, German broadcasters have secured all rights to the 2010 soccer World Cup in South Africa, with pubcasters ARD and ZDF splitting free-TV rights and leading German pay TV group Premiere signing a deal for exclusive pay TV licenses for the World Cup matches.

Premiere's deal with international soccer governing body FIFA represents the first time the German pay player has acquired World Cup rights without going through a sports or rights agency.

Under the agreement, Premiere can broadcast all 64 World Cup games live, 18 of which the pay TV group will show exclusively. The other 46 matches, which include the opening game, the finals and all quarter- and semi-final matches, will be simultaneously broadcast on free TV, with ARD and ZDF splitting the rights.

The agreements are similar to those struck between FIFA and Premiere, ARD and ZDF for the 2006 World Cup, which will be held in Germany and is expected to be a ratings bonanza.

For the 2006 and 2010 events, Premiere will broadcast all matches in high definition and allow Premiere subscribers to choose their own camera perspectives while watching the games. Premiere CEO Georg Kofler said the 2010 deal solidified Premiere's position as Germany's "No. 1 live soccer channel." All parties declined to comment on the price tag for the 2010 rights package.

Britain's ITV and BBC also announced that they have signed a deal with FIFA to broadcast the World Cup Finals in 2010 and 2014.

The broadcasters have signed a joint agreement to share rights to all 64 matches at the two tournaments in South Africa in five years time and the subsequent World Cup in 2014. The deal includes live-match rights and highlights for the entire tournaments.

The 2010 finals will be the 12th consecutive World Cup that ITV and the BBC have broadcast in tandem, dividing the number of matches between them and simulcasting the final.


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