Pay-television broadcaster ESPN has struck a surprise deal with the IMG agency for Serie A rights in Latin America and the Caribbean.
ESPN’s deal will run for the remainder of the 2018-19 season as well as two more seasons, 2019-20 and 2020-21. The deal comes as a shock as IMG were unable to sell the rights in Latin America for the first 12 match-weeks of the season.
ESPN’s owner, the Walt Disney Company, is in the process of acquiring the international channels of the Fox Network Group and it is unclear whether ESPN was able to bid for Serie A rights when they first came to market in the summer.
Local sources believed IMG’s only option would be to exploit the rights itself via its Serie A Pass OTT service or rely on a new entrant to pay its asking price. It is unclear whether ESPN has paid an increase on the equivalent value of the previous deal covering the two regions.
ESPN previously held exclusive rights to half of all Serie A matches in the region thanks to a sublicensing deal with rival Latin American pay-television broadcaster Fox Sports. Fox’s deal ran for three seasons, from 2015-16 to 2017-18, and covered Brazil, Latin America and the Caribbean.
ESPN began its Serie A coverage across Latin America and the Caribbean by showing five matches over the weekend. The broadcaster’s American operation also holds exclusive rights to Serie A in the US, where it shows all but one match per weekend on its ESPN+ OTT service.