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IMG takes big step in recouping Premier League investment after new deal in the Balkans

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 03: Mateo Kovacic of Chelsea in action during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Brighton & Hove Albion at Stamford Bridge on April 03, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

  • Sportklub acquires EPL rights from IMG from 2019-20, paying about $13.5m per season
  • IMG will increase revenue from the Balkans by at least 12.5 per cent
  • IMG has now recouped over half its investment in EPL rights across Central and Eastern Europe, and Central Asia

IMG continues to recoup its investment in English Premier League rights in Eastern Europe with a new deal with pay-television broadcaster Sportklub in the Balkans.

Sportklub’s new three-season deal with the agency for rights across the region – covering Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia – will be worth about $13.5m (€12.1m) per season over three seasons, from 2019-20 to 2021-22.

This is an increase of at least 12.5 per cent on the value of its current three-season deal with IMG, from 2016-17 to 2018-19, which is worth between $11m and $12m per season.

IMG acquired Premier League rights in the Balkans for the 2019-22 cycle directly from the league in November, as part of a wider deal across Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia. IMG will pay the league approximately $40m per season for rights across 26 countries. The agency’s deal with the league in the 2016-19 cycle – covering 27 countries in the same region – is worth about $45m per season. Bulgaria was carved out of the new deal by the league.

IMG sold on 2019-22 rights in Romania – part of its wider deal – to international sports broadcaster Eurosport earlier this year, earning about $8m per season. With the new deal in the Balkans, IMG has recouped about $21.5m per season in total: about 54 per cent of its total outlay.

IMG is thought to have broken even on its investment in the 2016-19 cycle.

Relationship building

Once IMG had acquired Premier League rights in the wider deal, Sportklub was confident it could pick up rights in the Balkans. The two firms have a strong professional relationship and IMG will often approach Sportklub first when it comes to market in the region.

In December, Sportklub paid IMG an increased fee for rights to Euroleague Basketball plus a package of less-valuable properties (the English FA Cup, Dutch Eredivisie, Chinese Super League and Swedish Allsvenskan).

The increased fee was widely seen a bid to solidify its chances of renewing Premier League rights, in acknowledgement of potential interest from Telekom Srbija and telco Telekom Austria, which has operations in Croatia (A1 Hrvatska), North Macedonia (One.Vip) and Slovenia (A1 Slovenija).

Telekom Srbija – operator of the Arena Sport channels and Sportklub’s main rival – acquired Italian Serie A rights from IMG last year.

Sportklub was aware of the two telcos’ interest in Premier League rights because it was approached by both to discuss the possibility of joint bids in the Premier League’s initial tender.

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