In the latest interactive monthly data report, SportBusiness Media analyses the role of agencies in the media-rights market globally.
Further detail on the deals covered in this interactive data report is available with our Rights Tracker tool – click here for more information.
Biggest deals involving agencies
According to data collected by SportBusiness Media, in 2019 alone, agencies paid more than $1.8bn (€1.65bn) to rights-holders to distribute media rights, either locally or globally, for properties across every sport and territory.
The role of media agencies continues to be crucial for rights-holders in order to reach revenue goals.
Italy’s Serie A has one of the biggest international distribution deals with an agency. In 2017, the IMG agency acquired the league’s exclusive international rights in a three-season deal, from 2018-19 to 2020-21. The deal represented an 83-per-cent increase on the previous deal with the now-defunct agency MP & Silva, which had held Serie A’s international rights in multiple deals since 2010. In January 2020, IMG secured a discount on its original payment, as a settlement in a dispute over the way the league’s Italian-language rights were sold to Italian state broadcaster Rai.
IMG, together with digital media company DAZN Group, also holds all media and sponsorship rights to Conmebol’s premier club competitions, from 2019 to 2022. The deal represented an uplift of about 78 per cent on the combination of deals with IMG and the Synergy agency (for sponsorship rights) and Fox Networks Group (for media rights) that Conmebol had from 2016 to 2018.
Another significant deal for IMG is its agreement with the English Football Association to distribute the FA’s rights from 2018-19 to 2023-24 in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Oceania, and North and South America. The deal represents a 154-per-cent increase on the sum of the single deals that the FA had for the rights in those territories from 2012-13 to 2017-18.
Football’s global governing body Fifa has also sold its properties’ media rights in crucial regions of the world to agencies. In Asia (excluding Japan, Korea and Malaysia), it has sold rights to the 2018 and 2022 editions of the World Cup to the Swiss agency Infront. This represented an uplift on the deal for the two previous editions with Football Media Services for the two previous editions. Similarly, the Japanese agency Dentsu acquired rights in Japan to the 2018 and 2022 editions.
Uefa has longstanding relationships with the Team Marketing and CAA Eleven agencies for the sale of its club competitions and national teams competitions, respectively. Rather than buying the rights outright from European football’s governing body, the agencies work with Uefa in selling the rights globally.
In 2018, AFC agreed to a deal from 2021 to 2028 with the agency DDMC Fortis for global media and sponsorship rights to all AFC competitions. The deal represents a 296-per-cent increase on AFC’s current global distribution deal with Lagardère Sports.
Click on each property logo to filter the selected media-rights value information.
IMG invests heavily in sports rights. Along with the deals with Serie A and the English FA, IMG has enhanced its soccer portfolio over the years, agreeing deals with Spain’s LaLiga, the English Premier League, the Dutch Eredivisie, Major League Soccer and Germany’s Bundesliga. These soccer deals together account for about 85 per cent of the agency’s yearly investments.
The agency does not just buy out rights. In 2015, it entered into a joint venture with Euroleague Basketball to market all rights globally, from 2016-17 to 2025-26.
It also has valuable deals with World Athletics’ Diamond League, Union Cycliste Internationale, International Equestrian Federation, Austrian Skiing Federation and International Volleyball Federation.
Infront is also an active player in the media-rights market. The agency has partnered over the years with multiple international federations across many sports and has built a diverse portfolio of rights which it distributes all over the world.
One of its most prominent deals is with the International Ski Federation for global media and marketing rights for the Alpine and Nordic World Ski Championships in 2019 and 2021. The deal was renewed in 2018 to cover events until 2025, securing a 12-per-cent uplift on the current deal.
Infront is the dominant winter sports agency and has stockpiled international or global rights to national federations’ events in order to package and sell them on to broadcasters. It holds rights to most of the biggest ski federations, excluding Austria and Switzerland, which have deals with IMG and the European Broadcasting Union, respectively.
Infront also has global deals with the International Ice Hockey Federation for its World Championship from 2018 to 2023 and with the Badminton World Federation from 2018 to 2025. The agency recently renewed its deal with the IIHF for a further 10 years, increasing its yearly outlay of about 72-per-cent on the current deal.
The Japanese agency Dentsu is one of the most active agencies, with a specific focus on Japan and other Asian markets, and has built a rich portfolio of rights ranging from soccer to volleyball.
Since 2016, it is the partner of Conmebol in the global distribution of rights to the Copa America until the 2028 edition. The agency also has longstanding relationships with World Athletics, for which it bought rights outside Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa to the World Athletics Series from 2020 to 2029.
It bought rights in Japan to the 2019 World Rugby Cup. The deal represented a 10-fold increase in value on the previous deal with the agency for the 2015 edition. Dentsu also bought rights in Japan to Asian Football Confederation events from 2017 to 2020 and MLB rights from 2016 to 2020.
Dentsu also markets international rights for local properties such as the J.League, Japan’s top-tier football league.
UK-based Pitch International is one of the most prominent players in the European media-rights market. One of its most notable deals is with the English FA, for rights in Western Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa until 2023-24.
It has also been a longstanding partner of the English Football League, for which it has a deal that covers international rights from 2017 to 2022.
Pitch is also heavily involved in rugby. Its most important deal is for international rights to the Six Nations from 2018 to 2021. The deal represented a 20-per-cent increase on the previous deal with the agency, from 2014 to 2017.
Click on each agency logo to filter the selected media-rights value information.
Market changes, actors change
For agencies, the market dynamics have changed drastically in the past five years and some of the biggest agencies have faced issues that have strongly impacted their rights portfolios.
Two of the most relevant cases are those of MP & Silva and Lagardère.
MP & Silva was one of the most active agencies in the market. Its portfolio was composed of top properties, including the English Premier League, Formula 1, the National Football League, and its flagship deal for international Serie A rights.
However, in 2018, the agency was forced to wind-up after a decision of the UK’s High Court of Justice. It had missed scheduled payments to rights-holders following a high-profile change in ownership. This allowed many agencies to acquire multiple rights to properties that had been previously bought by MP & Silva.
Lagardère Sports is still active in the buying and selling of media rights, however the loss of strategic properties over the years has affected the French agency’s position in the market.
Lagardère Sports was put together by a series of mergers and acquisitions, with the Sportfive agency one of the biggest components. When, in 2014, Uefa decided to centralise the rights to national team qualifier matches for the Fifa World Cup and the European Championships, the agency lost a big part of its portfolio, since buying and selling federation media rights had been the main core of the business for many years.
The loss of two important properties, the Asian Football Confederation and Confederation of African Football global rights, has further affected the position of the French conglomerate, which has recently been acquired by H.I.G. Europe, in a deal worth about $119m for 75 per cent of the agency.
Over the past few years, agencies have explored different solutions to enter into relationships with sports rights-holders.
Agencies have in some cases created joint ventures with the sports rights-holders.
One of the first of its kind was the joint venture between IMG and Euroleague. Shortly after, the Perform agency (now DAZN Group) and the International Basketball Federation announced the formation of a new strategic partnership that led to the creation of Fiba Media. The deal runs from 2017 until 2033.
One of the most common options has been the use of joint bids by two or more agencies to acquire rights. As seen in the case of the IMG and Perform bid for the Conmebol global rights (which led to the creation of a joint venture called Diez Media), many other agencies decided to follow this approach.
In 2018, Infront and Perform decided to team up to acquire European Handball Federation events starting in 2020 in a 10-year global deal for its media and marketing rights. The deal represented a 300-per-cent increase on the two separate deals that the federation had in the previous cycle with Infront and MP & Silva.
Lastly, some agencies have started to slowly shift towards a hybrid position of agency/broadcaster. Spanish agency Mediapro has operated this hybrid model for years in Spain with LaLiga rights. In 2019, the agency also moved to Canada and France with two strategic acquisitions that led to the creation of broadcasting channels.