BARCELONA (Reuters) - Barcelona have agreed to sell the rights to screen their La Liga matches next season to a unit of Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica, ending a long-standing collaboration with broadcaster Mediapro.
The deal was rubber-stamped at a Barca board meeting on Monday and Telefonica will also take over the running of Barca’s in-house television channel, the club said on their website.
Barca did not say how much Telefonica had agreed to pay but local media reported it was around 140 million euros (103.43 million pounds), roughly in line with what Mediapro, who own the TV rights for a majority of La Liga clubs, paid for this season.
Barca’s latest deal is only for one season as Spanish clubs are set to adopt a system of collective bargaining for TV rights similar to that used in other top European leagues from the 2016-17 campaign.
The Spanish government has pledged to introduce a law mandating collective bargaining but has been dragging its feet, prompting some clubs to threaten they will strike in protest.
Pressure has increased after the English Premier League agreed this month a new collective TV rights deal with Sky and BT Sport for 2016-19 worth nearly $8 billion.
Many clubs in La Liga, including the likes of Espanyol, Valencia and Sevilla, are hopeful a collective deal would enable them to demand more from broadcasters which would then be shared out more equitably to create a more level playing field.
Real Madrid, the world’s wealthiest club by income, and Barca, the fourth richest, together take about half the annual La Liga TV money of around 650 million euros, one reason they usually finish far ahead of their domestic rivals.
According to Esteve Calzada, CEO of Barcelona-based consulting firm Prime Time Sport, the ratio in England between the team that makes the most TV money and the one that makes the least is about 1.5 to 1 while in La Liga it is 10 to 1.
Real and Barca have yet to publicly commit to a system of collective bargaining and analysts have suggested they would only do so if they were guaranteed the same level of income as they have now.
Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Ed Osmond