The state telecommunication company Telekom Serbia's decision to pay 600 million euros for the broadcasting rights to English Premier League (EPL) matches in six seasons starting from 2022/23, widely seen as a politically motivated move aiming to harm the privately-owned United Group (UG) whose SBB broadcast the EPL for years, also caused bitter public reactions.
Telekom has started a war against the SBB cable provider and, helped by the state authorities it acquired small providers, several TV channels, and publicly admitted the goal of the contract with the Czech-owned Telenor is to destroy the SBB and put the UG, its United Media and SBB out of business in Serbia.
The last move worth 100 million euros per season for the EPL matches is, according to the independent Beta news agency’s sources familiar with the deal, ten times higher price than SBB had been paying.
Telekom Serbia CEO Vladimir Lucic declared the price a business secret. President Aleksandar Vucic said he did not know what the price was but he knew that Dragan Solak, the Founder and Chairman of the UG Advisory Board, and Dragan Djilas, an opposition leader, raised the price in the first round of negotiations and lost in the end.
He asked an N1 reporter why the UG was angry when Serbia progressed and when the state company won in bidding for the broadcasting rights?
However, Slovenian professor Marko Milosavljevic told N1 on Wednesday that the purchase was politically motivated, adding he was convinced that Vucic’s regime was using the telecommunications company to expand its influence across the Western Balkans.
He said he expected the European Commission to react.
“Telekom Serbia can’t expect any profit from the deal after paying 600 million Euro for those rights,” Milosavljevic said.
His thoughts have a foundation in business reports about Telekom Serbia, showing its debt rose to 1.44 billion euros, from 289 million in 2017, following numerous acquisitions. Many saw them as an attempt to suffocate independent media in the country, primarily N1 and Nova TV channels owned by the UG.