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Watching Calcio



Serie A has trailed other leagues in terms of stadium attendance and viewership for much too long. They keep claiming they want to rebuild Serie A and increase attendance and viewership. Yet they do nothing to make that happen. Or even worse, they specifically keep doing the same things they’ve always done, expecting different results. But what they don’t see is the impact their terrible business practices have on fans, especially fans worldwide. By making it more difficult to attend games or view the games on TV or via streaming, they seem surprised that fewer people are actually watching calcio.

How do you increase viewership if you limit who can watch?

While stadium attendance was great on the last day of the season, setting a record for attendance on the final matchday in eight seasons, overall Serie A attendance throughout the season is still much lower than other European leagues. The average attendance per game was 24,693. Serie A still languish in fourth place amongst the top five leagues when it comes to watching games in the stadium. The Bundesliga tops the list with an average of 44,646 people attending each match, while the Premier League takes second with an average of 38, 297. The league has done little to help teams overcome the difficult bureaucracy to be able to own their own stadia. And despite efforts to clean up the environment and invite more families and children to the matches, the numbers still languish. Additionally, they have changed the scheduling of matches, reportedly to appeal to a worldwide television audience. Only those changes have impacted stadium attendance negatively, because they make it more difficult for fans to get to the games at the earlier times.

Appealing to the television audience is ironic.  Within Italy, there was a bid accepted from Mediapro for all of the TV rights for the country. They outbid Sky and Mediaset, who had the rights this past season. However courts blocked the bid due to antitrust law, with an appeal scheduled for June seventh. And yesterday, the league voted unanimously to block the bid, even though the bid from Sky and Mediaset was considerably lower. I don’t know everything about the deals, but I do know that Sky and Mediaset put a lot of effort into getting the antitrust ruling. More effort than they put into making sure that all Italians can watch the games. I don’t know if Mediapro could have delivered on their promises, but if so, they would have made all of the games far more accessible to fans in Italy. Such a shame that Serie A are so stuck in their ways that they cannot even try to move forward and allow more fans to watch. Especially when you consider that despite a more exciting Serie A season this past year, TV viewership in Italy was actually down 3% overall. But hey, why get more money and allow more fans to watch when you can keep doing the same thing?

How do you fill a stadium if you are catering to a worldwide TV audience that you cut off?

While Serie A watch their domestic TV rights monies very closely, even if they still make poor choices, their international TV rights deals are severely neglected. Sure, this year, they decided to crack down on illegal streaming of Serie A games. They were hyper-vigilant about shutting down streams right away. But allowing international fans legal access to the games is not a priority. Despite a new deal with IMG for the international rights that at least brought them a little more money, there is no promise whatsoever that worldwide fans will have any more access to Serie A games legally. And if they continue to block all illegal streaming of the games, then international fans literally have no way to watch the games at all. Well done, Serie A.

For a league that perpetually whines about not having the revenue, attendance, and viewership of other leagues, they are consistently unwilling to make the changes necessary to be competitive. Instead of allowing more fans to come to the games, they changed the times of the games to make it more inconvenient for people to attend. When offered a more lucrative domestic television rights deal that also promised to make the games more available to Italian fans, the league said no. They took the money from an increased bid for international television rights, but without making sure that the games would be more accessible to fans worldwide. Instead they focused on blocking illegal streaming, which had no financial impact on their international television rights deal. The only impact their actions had was preventing more fans from watching. So if they are doing everything to keep fans from watching, whether at the stadium, at home, or abroad, then who do they expect to be left watching calcio?


This post inspired by the music of Bad Religion’s “Television”