Serie A and IMG settle payment schedule, Sky ‘issued ultimatum’

The IMG agency and Lega Serie A, the organising body of the top division of Italian club football, have reached an agreement over the remaining payments for international rights to Italian football’s top flight, SportBusiness understands.

A deal has been struck after discussions with the league in recent weeks and follows a similar accord reached by DAZN, the OTT streaming operator, over instalment payments for domestic broadcast rights.

It is understood that IMG has agreed to meet May’s missed instalment via two payments, with the first tranche to be paid by June 27 and the second by July 20.

DAZN and IMG did not make the payments in May as Serie A remained suspended amid the Covid-19 shutdown but the league resumed its 2019-20 season on Saturday (June 20).

IMG’s international rights deal is worth just over €380m ($428.2m) per season for international broadcast rights, club archive rights, betting rights, a marketing spend and fee for access to the broadcast signal.

Pay-television broadcaster Sky Italia and DAZN hold live domestic rights in deals worth €973m per season. Sky is paying €780m and can broadcast seven of the 10 weekly Serie A fixtures, with DAZN paying €193.3m per season for rights to the remaining three fixtures per match week.

Discussions with Sky Italia have been far less fruitful, with the league having filed an injunction against the pay-television broadcaster in a bid to claw back rights fee payments.

Lega Serie A has now issued Sky with an ultimatum to pay its missed rights fee instalments totalling €131m, reports La Repubblica newspaper.

It is claimed that a July 12 deadline has been issued by the league and, in the event that the payment is not made, the league is threatening to prevent Sky from receiving the broadcast signal at a time that the rescheduled 2019-20 Serie A season enters its decisive phase.

Speaking in mid May amid a deadlock in negotiations, Sky Italia chief executive Maximo Ibarra said that he hoped it would “finally be the right occasion for representatives of Serie A clubs to take the proposal for dialogue that we have offered them for weeks seriously”.

He told ANSA: “Across Europe, in Germany, France and the UK, leagues and broadcasters are jointly addressing this serious emergency by finding balanced and general interest solutions.”

Ibarra said that Sky has “proposed several solutions” but had not received a response and called on Serie A to “rediscover its constructive spirit that has marked many years of collaboration with Sky”.

However, he was met with a swift response from Serie A chief executive Luigi De Siervo, who said that, although the “door for dialogue with Sky has always remained open”, the league has “always stressed that it was necessary for Sky to meet the payment deadlines set by the contracts as a priority”.

De Siervo added: “We immediately made it clear that Sky’s request for a discount of between 15 per cent and 18 per cent, in the event of the continuation of the championship, obviously could not be accepted, especially during such a tricky financial period for our teams.”