Fox Sports: IMG's 'extremely high price' reason for Serie A rights loss
By Martin Ross
Fox Sports Latin America, the pan-regional pay-TV broadcaster, has said that its loss of Serie A rights from this season onwards was down to the “extremely high asking price” set by IMG, the agency that holds the international rights to the Italian top flight.
In Latin America, IMG has decided to exclusively showcase the Italian top flight on its new over-the-top subscription service Serie A Pass after a deal with a broadcaster in the region could not be reached.
Fox Sports, the incumbent Serie A broadcaster, previously sub-licensed selected rights to fellow pay-TV sports broadcaster ESPN, but neither broadcaster was able to come up with a bid to come close to meeting IMG’s terms.
Fox Sports told Sportcal today that it “chose not to renew the Serie A rights because we believed the increased price did not appropriately reflect the value they would need to return to us over the term of the licence.”
IMG, which took over the Serie A international rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21 after replacing rival MP & Silva, told Sportcal yesterday that there had been no offer from Fox, which it found “very surprising.”
Fox Sports said today: “As a distributor of Serie A in Latin America for several years, we have hands-on operational knowledge of the value of this property to our viewers, our affiliates and to our advertisers. Fox Sports’ decision not to renew the rights was based exclusively on our own review of the value of the rights to Fox Sports.
“Any suggestion that we chose not to renew for any other reason beyond commercial sensibility is just patently false.
“There are many broadcasters and a whole host of digital distributors in the market who had full opportunity to acquire the Serie A rights. The fact that there were no other offers that satisfied the sellers is perhaps a reflection of the extremely high asking price for the rights against the current market conditions in Latin America.”
Despite some concerns among agencies at present about the reasons behind a lack of a competitive environment in Latin America, Fox Sports said that it “categorically denies any allegation or suggestion that there may have been any association or agreement with any other company to influence the price of Serie A rights, or any other rights in the market for that matter.”
IMG has held negotiations with broadcasters worldwide since its acquisition of Serie A rights ten months ago, supplanting MP & Silva in a deal worth €366.5 million ($418 million) per season, including fees for betting rights and a production contribution.
IMG’s aggressive price point for the Serie A rights has been driven by an evaluation of viewing figures compared to other top European leagues, coupled with the Italian top flight finishing second only to the Premier League in transfer spending this summer (with much of it on South American players, including Douglas Costa’s €40-million move from Bayern Munich to Juventus).
A subscription to Serie A Pass in Latin America has been set at $8.99 per month across the region (or $59.99 per year).
As the league prepares to kick off its new season this weekend, IMG’s Serie A Pass is available in a total of 78 countries and territories, but, with the exception of Latin America, it is chiefly operating as a service that is “complementary” to deals struck with broadcasters.
Other countries and regions in which it is available include: The Balkans; Israel; Netherlands; the Indian subcontinent; Malaysia; Singapore; Vietnam; and the Caribbean.
Discussing IMG’s decision to retain the exclusive rights in Latin America, Adam Kelly, senior vice-president of worldwide sales at IMG Media, told Sportcal yesterday: “It’s fundamentally important, not just for us as a business but also for our obligations to rights-holders, that we are showing the market that there is a minimum value that we can achieve.”
He said that if broadcasters can’t match the “minimum value,” then IMG has “the technical capabilities to deliver direct-to-consumer and achieve value.”
Kelly added: “The broadcasters in this particular region are leaving the door open to disruption. For now we’re stepping into this role but you could very quickly see others stepping in when this vacuum is present.”
Serie A Pass (www.seriea-pass.com) is available on desktop, tablet and mobile and via Apps on IOS and Android devices to include Chromecast and Apple airplay.
• The Serie A broadcast footprint has widened in Canada with TLN, the cable and satellite television channel that serves foreign-speaking communities in the country, acquiring live rights to the league for the next three seasons.
TLN will work with Italian commercial broadcaster Mediaset to show the matches with English commentary and some in Italian.
TLN’s deal with IMG complements agreements already in place for Serie A in Canada with DAZN, the Perform-owned over-the-top streaming service, in English, and with Rai Italia, in Italian.
Serie A action has been available to DAZN subscribers in Canada since August last year under a content tie-up with BeIN Sports, the pay-TV broadcast and rights-holder.