Yet another state Telekom Serbia odd deal – € 100 mil per season for EPL matches

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The state telecommunications company Telekom Serbia has bought the rights for the broadcast of the English Premier League (EPL), also referred to as Premiership (PS) soccer matches on its Arena Sport channel for 100 million euros per season, in the next six years, almost ten times more than those rights previously paid by the United Group SBB's Sport Klub, the Belgrade independent Beta news agency has reported on Tuesday.

Sport Klub will still broadcast the EPL games in the 2021/22 season.

In what appears to be another odd purchase, Telekom Srbija CEO Vladimir Lucic told Beta the price was „a business secret.“

Nemanja Nenadic from Transparency Serbia said that there were no clear economic logic and market reasons for Telekom Serbia to pay such a price for something that, by the nature of things, could have probably been cheaper. He added the state-owned company should give more details about the whole case to the public.

He added the EPL wasn’t ready to accept the bank guarantees and that it was necessary to pay 200 million euros in advance.

But, the sources close to negotiations told Beta that the rights were bought for the six seasons starting from 2022/23 for a total of 600 million euros despite substantially lower price until now, and added that „it is difficult to imagine such investment could pay off.“

The sources added that the same rights cost Germany, Austria and Switzerland 25 million euros per season.

Telekom Serbia, supported by the countries’ authorities, said it planned to destroy the privately-owned SBB cable services provider, end its business operations in Serbia, and destroy the free media outlets N1 and Nova S.

United Group said in May Lucic publicly admitted he was behind such a plan.

The cost of such a plan is enormous, and the media reported that „Telekom Serbia had aggressively appeared on the multi-media services market and had turned its business model around by expanding its optical network over the past few years.“

According to the Nova Ekonomija magazine report in March,Telekom Serbia financial reports for 2020 showed the company’s debt stood at 1.44 billion euros, while in 2017, it was 289 million euros.

All those investments in cable operators and TV channels raised some eyebrows abroad about their goals, including the media freedom in the country.

The European Western Balkans (EWB) reported in March the moves raised „the concerns about the already insufficient media pluralism in Serbia increased after a document emerged showing that the state-owned company Telekom intended to sign a contract with the private Telenor company to reduce the share of the cable television company Serbian Broadband (SBB) in the country’s market.