Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Italy Soccer Serie A
Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo scores during a Serie A soccer match between Juventus and Cagliari at the Juventus stadium, in Turin, Italy, Sunday, May 18, 2014. (AP Photo/Massimo Pinca)

Discovery’s Eurosport Said to Bid for Italian Soccer TV Rights

Discovery Communications Inc.’s Eurosport is bidding for Italian soccer TV rights to challenge Mediaset SpA and Sky Italia in broadcasting the country’s most popular sport.

Eurosport bid for a package that includes 132 matches involving 12 top-division teams and has a starting price of 705 million euros ($960 million), Italy’s Serie A soccer league said on its website. The rights cover three seasons, beginning in the fall of 2015.

Discovery, partly owned by cable-TV billionaire John Malone, is seeking to become more competitive in sports after acquiring control of Eurosport this year. Mediaset, controlled by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and Sky Italia, part of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox Inc. also submitted offers to broadcast matches of Italy’s top league.

Fox International Channels confirmed in an e-mail that it’s also bidding. Bloomberg News reported earlier today that the bidders included Eurosport, Mediaset, Fox and Sky Italia.

“Eurosport’s bid for Serie A confirms Italy’s major football league is among the most valuable premium content in Europe,” said Francesco Siliato, a professor who specializes in media and telecommunications at Milan’s Politecnico University. In Italy, soccer games usually attract double the audience of any other kind of TV program, he said.

Serie A is Italy’s top division and includes AC Milan, the seven-time European champion owned by Berlusconi, as well as the Agnelli family’s Juventus and Erick Thohir’s Inter Milan.

Discovery, based in Silver Spring, Maryland, increased its stake in Societe Television Francaise 1’s Eurosport to 51 percent from 20 percent on May 30. In January, when Discovery agreed to the deal, Chief Executive Officer David Zaslav said the company isn’t ruling out bidding for any sports rights.

Shares of Discovery gained 2.4 percent to $80.53 at 12:41 p.m. in New York.

The auction for the Serie A rights, managed by Infront Italy SRL, ended today. It includes four main TV-rights packages, with a total starting price of 2.88 billion euros. The league now has 21 days to evaluate the offers.

Italian news agency Radiocor reported earlier today that Eurosport was bidding for Italian soccer rights.