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IMG finalises SPFL betting rights deal as Pixellot technology added

Rangers face Heart of Midlothian during Ladbrokes Premiership match (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

IMG Arena, the sports betting unit of the IMG agency, has signed off on a five-year betting streaming agreement with the Scottish Professional Football League, a deal that includes a tie-up with automated production firm Pixellot to provide match footage from the second-tier Scottish Championship.

The deal, which was first reported by SportBusiness Media last month, runs from 2020-21 to 2024-25 and allows the incumbent rights-holder to continue to provide SPFL matches to the international betting market.

The length of the agreement brings it in line with the SPFL’s new domestic broadcast contracts (with Sky, Premier Sports and BBC Scotland). The new betting streaming deal also aligns with the length of the recently-agreed international broadcast rights deal with Infront after the SPFL opted to sell its broadcast and betting streaming rights separately.

Along with the top-tier Scottish Premiership, IMG Arena’s new agreement also covers the second-tier Championship, League One and League Two. The Betfred Cup, Scotland’s league cup competition, and the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafer Challenge Cup for lower-league teams are also included.

In order to provide streaming of Championship games to its betting clients, IMG Arena has entered into an agreement with Pixellot to install AI-automated camera production technology at grounds in Scotland’s second tier.

IMG Arena and the SPFL said: “The automated technology uses advanced production algorithms and a network of cameras tracking play, to generate match footage that can be used online as well as across mobile devices. The footage will be made available to an international audience, restricted to countries outside the UK and Ireland.”

At present, live television production of matches from the Championship is restricted to the maximum of 20 fixtures shown each season on BBC Scotland and the handful of matches aired by BT Sport, the pay-TV broadcaster with rights to the top-tier Premiership. Some clubs, such as Partick Thistle, have invested in live production of matches to showcase internationally on their YouTube channel.

The addition of the Championship matches produced by Pixellot’s automated camera technology – trialled recently at lower league grounds – comes with the number of Premiership matches that IMG Arena can offer to bookmakers having been reduced. SportBusiness understands that there were calls from top-tier clubs to reduce the number of matches in the new agreement given the impact of the betting streams being pirated.

Neil Doncaster, the SPFL chief executive, said today (Wednesday): “Deepening our mutually successful partnership with IMG Arena creates a range of increased commercial benefits, allowing us to reinvest significant revenues across the SPFL. It will also help to increase the international visibility and popularity of our competitions through innovative, best-in-class production.”

Freddie Longe, managing director at IMG Arena, said that the AI-automated solutions would create “a new template for sport streaming”. He added: “This new venture will lead to audience growth for the SPFL’s competitions and will help take its content offering to the next level.”

Pixellot now counts Brazilian media conglomerate Grupo Globo among its backers following a $3.3m (€3m) investment. The Israel-based firm also counts Shamrock Capital, Firstime, Baidu and Asahi Broadcasting Company among its existing investors.