The purchase of the rights for six seasons of the Premier League at a price of 600 million euros by Serbia’s Telecom is, according to an article by Jutarnji List, an economic but also a geostrategic issue, with a covert media and telecommunications war in the background - which aims to push out the competition.
In the article, entitled „A blow for the pockets of Croats could happen because of Vucic’s confrontation with his loudest critic“, the paper says that the move would additionally cost consumers if the company was guided by economic calculations.
However, according to a professor from the Faculty of Ljubljana Marko Milosavljevic, Telekom Srbija and Arena never planned to return the investment of 600 million euros.
The text states that Arena Sport, which is owned by Telekom Srbija, gave 100 million euros per season in the tender for the rights to the Premier League and purchased the rights for six of them, while Sport Klub, which buys the rights for the Premier League every year, paid 12 million per season, which is almost ten times less.
According to the experts Jutarnji list quoted, the move can be interpreted from two perspectives – economic and political, which are intertwined.
Arena Sport has television channels that are watched in Croatia, BiH, Montenegro, Kosovo, Northern Macedonia and Slovenia, the paper said.
“So, the state Telecom gave its sports channel Arena a total of 600 million euros of public money for the English league, and that is not the only league or the only sport that is aired by Arena. According to insider information, the Spanish football league costs another 14 million euros, the Italian 23 million, the French six, the Champions League 45 million euros, and this also includes the HNL (Croatian Football League), UEFA, Europa League and Conference League, basketball, NBA, hockey, tennis,“ the article listed.
According to Milosavljevic, the goal of the purchase is to eliminate the competition – namely Sport Klub, which is part of the United Group, together with several media which are critical of Vucic and the government in Serbia.
„If we take the area of the entire former Yugoslavia, of 20 million people, we already see that each inhabitant would have to pay at least five euros a year more in order for that investment in the Premier League to pay off for the owner. And that is impossible. We are talking about maybe several million households in the entire region that use sports television packages, and they will then have to pay much more – 40 or 50. Who, for example, in Northern Macedonia would agree to pay for this to their telecom? Also, will HT, A1 or Telekom Slovenija agree to pay the price Arena Sport will ask?” he said.
Milosavljevic believes that the struggle for regional media and telecommunications dominance is the true reason for the move. Vucic is trying to destroy the competition – United Group – and firmly secure his position for a so-called soft impact on the region, including Croatia, the article said.
He said that, in the case of Telekom Srbija, „we have a lot of public money that is spent non-transparently, and it is impossible to separate politics and Vucic from the decision-making process.“
The European Commission should also react because the EU restricts the entry of state companies from countries that are not members of the Union in cases when there is a suspicion that it is a political effort for spreading geopolitical influence, he concluded.