OTT & Digital

Serie A and La Liga rights offload spells end for IMG’s Swedish OTT service

Pay-TV network C More acquires agency’s soccer rights including MLS.

by Steven Impey

Serie A and La Liga rights offload spells end for IMG’s Swedish OTT service

IMG has sold its Swedish Serie A, La Liga, and Major League Soccer (MLS) rights to domestic pay-TV broadcaster C More, signaling the end of the agency’s Strive Sport streaming operation in the country.

The over-the-top (OTT) service was launched in the Scandinavia market last summer, originally offering live soccer matches from Italy’s and Spain’s top flights to subscribers in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, before adding MLS rights to its offering in March.

At the time of its launch, IMG’s service cost US$9 per month or US$56 annually, following a seven-day free trial, and also offered match highlights, magazine shows, and other original content.

In the interim, Strive’s Swedish service will continue to broadcast MLS matches alongside C More, as well the first six weeks of the upcoming La Liga season, which starts on 16th August, and the first five weeks of the new Serie A campaign, which begins on 24th August.

From October, C More will then take on the rights exclusively, for an undisclosed fee. Those league’s broadcasts will then only be available via the broadcaster’s C More and Sportkanalen linear TV channels, as well as C More Mycket Sport and C More All Sport, the broadcaster’s OTT platforms.

Strive’s operations in Denmark and Norway will remain unaffected by the deal, IMG has confirmed, and will continue streaming matches from all three leagues. The OTT service took 18 months to build, and was aided by parent company Endeavor’s US$250 million takeover of the UK-based streaming service provider, NeuLion.

Speaking at the time, IMG’s senior vice president Kristian Hysén told Sportcal that Scandinavia is a “highly digital market” and opened the door for IMG to test its direct-to-consumer capabilities.

Following the C More deal, Hysén said: “Strive has been a very popular service with viewers in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia. La Liga and Serie A are two of the top leagues in world football and the interest and awareness of MLS is as high as it has ever been.

“We are delighted that we have been able to come to an agreement with C More to broadcast the Strive output, especially as they look to grow their football offering for fans in Sweden. Like us, they have a true passion for the game and we know coverage of the leagues will be in good hands.”

The agreement will see C More, which is part of the Bonnier Broadcasting group, expand its existing portfolio of soccer rights, which also includes qualifiers for the 2020 Uefa European Championship, tournament rights to the 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar, and also Uefa Nations League matches. The addition of MLS rights will also gain interest given Sweden star Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s presence in the US league.

Johan Cederqvist, head of sports channels at C More and TV4, said: “La Liga and Serie A have a strong following in Sweden and the quality to appeal to a broader audience with the rest of our football offering. The leagues are top class both in terms of the quality of the football and the broadcast production of the matches.”