No bids yet for Italian soccer rights

Federcalcio sets minimum fee at $104 mil

ROME -- On the eve of the close of bidding for broadcast rights to the upcoming Italian soccer season, no single bidder has yet emerged, raising the possibility that play in Italy's top soccer league could begin Aug. 30 without a broadcast contract.

Federcalcio, Italian soccer's oversight body, set the minimum fee for broadcast rights for the upcoming Serie A season at 70 million euros ($104 million), but there were no takers when the bidding closed Aug. 6. Bidding was extended until Tuesday, and so far interest seems to be minimal.

State broadcaster RAI says it will bid no more than 30.6 million euros ($45.3 million), and while rival Mediaset has not stated its intentions, the broadcaster has been slow to show interest.

Last year, Mediaset -- controlled by Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi -- paid 61 million euros ($90.3 million) for broadcast rights, and later complained that it paid too much. Federcalcio's minimum bid represents a 14.8% increase on last year's price.

Experts say that a post-European Cup drop in interest, combined with scandals that have rocked the sport and a growing interest in other sports, have all limited interest in the rights.

If no bidder emerges, Federcalcio could elect to sell off parts of the season to RAI, Mediaset and other broadcasters such as Telecom Italia's La 7 and News Corp.'s Sky-Italia, a satellite broadcaster.