Inside the deal: EFL fans to view enhanced broadcasts for the next five seasons as IMG becomes official production partner

IMG is the new production partner for the EFL through to the end of the 2028/29 season

IMG has been announced as the English Football League’s (EFL) production partner through to the end of the 2028/29 season, which will mean a major upgrade to the EFL’s broadcast output for the next five seasons. The deal begins with the 2024/25 season.

Domestically, 1,059 EFL matches in the Sky Bet EFL, Carabao Cup and Bristol Street Motors Trophy matches are set to be broadcast exclusively across existing Sky Sports channels or live via a Sky Sports streaming destination. From its dedicated EFL production centre at Stockley Park, IMG will produce 866 matches per season for Sky Sports’ streaming service with the remaining balance produced by Sky for their main channel output.

“We like it big at Stockley Park! We like it when Stockley Park is tested, because you want to stretch the capability and the imagination. So, this is a lot of football”

IMG will produce a further 832 matches (1,698 in total), which will be utilised outside of the UK by EFL rights holders Pitch International and Relevent Sports, that will distribute the premium broadcast feed across the world. Clubs will also be able to offer the elevated output via their own international streaming services to fans of EFL Clubs outside of the UK.

With record domestic and international broadcast deals in place from the 2024/25 season until 2028/29, the EFL is committing to an increased audio-visual production which will see more cameras at every broadcast Sky Bet EFL fixture, enhanced commentary facilities, new in-game graphics and improved features to deliver a premium experience for viewers at home and abroad.

IMG head of studios, Barney Francis

Growing business

Speaking to SVG Europe, executive vice president of studios, Barney Francis, comments on the process for IMG to win the contract with the EFL: “We were the incumbent and it was an open, competitive process. When you go into these things as the incumbent, you are actually up against it, because everybody else that pitches knows what you’ve done over the previous term, and therefore come up with alternative solutions. So, of course we’re delighted to extend it.

“We like working with the EFL, we’ve built out a great team here and a great tech stack. And obviously, given my previous role as well, [we are] fully aware of the importance of the EFL and what they’re trying to achieve so we were able to come up with a solution that they think best serves their licences. It’s an important one for us.”

He continues: “We like working on all sorts of different properties, and to retain this business is really good; it sits alongside our other big pillars of PLP and DP World Tour, MLS, Euro League, and EFL is another biggie. We like it big at Stockley Park! We like it when Stockley Park is tested, because you want to stretch the capability and the imagination. So, this is a lot of football.”

Read more: Sky Sports and EFL ink £935m five-year domestic rights deal and pledge to up production values

EFL chief commercial officer, Ben Wright, says: “The start of the 2024/25 season, represents an exciting new era for the EFL with recordbreaking rights deals at home and abroad that will see a huge number of games broadcast and a new way of watching for fans of EFL Clubs.

“It was imperative that our production partner had the experience, expertise and capability to elevate our broadcast output across our competitions and after a thorough RFP process, it was clear that IMG could offer the world class service level required with the track record to match.

“Having started this relationship in 2019, IMG understands the EFL and the needs of its Clubs. The enhancement of that relationship with increased output will provide significant benefit to Sky Sports, Clubs, partners and other affiliates. The partnership aims to put fans first, innovate and ultimately deliver an enhanced viewing experience for EFL fans everywhere.”

Francis adds: “We are delighted that [the English] Football League sits alongside us in thinking that we’re best place to deliver it. Even though we’re a B2B, what I always say to my team is I want us to operate like a B2B2C; let’s understand the partner we’re working with and who are their consumers, because that all plays into the financial ecosystem. If their consumers are unhappy with the Football League and how it’s doing it, then the Football League can be unhappy with us. So, we like to try and think as a B2B2C, and that way we provide best value to those that we work with.”

EFL coverage going forwards will see a huge increase in cameras used for all matches, improving the viewer experience

More cameras

The major change fans will see is increased camera set ups across every division with six cameras in the Championship, four cameras in League One and two cameras in League Two, up from four, one and one cameras respectively.

Carabao Cup matches will feature a minimum of two cameras plus an upscaled four camera set up for later rounds of the competition. All Bristol Street Motors Trophy matches will remain available to view with a one camera set up until the semi-finals.

Francis comments: “We’ve moved to this 6:4:2 camera set up, which adds a layer of complexity, both in the tech provision we’ve got here, the people provision; going from four to six cameras for the games that aren’t outside broadcast matches for Sky means that we need better people, better workflows and what have you. So, we’ve come up with a solution that clearly the EFL is happy with.”

“From a personnel point of view, it’s a brilliant opportunity for match directors, particularly on those six camera championship games, to go from four cameras to six”

He explains how a typical EFL weekend might look: “If you take a whole weekend, Sky will do their matches remotely, I would imagine, the way they’ve been doing their matches. Then everything else that we do – outside of Sky’s chosen matches in their fixed time slots, all the three o’clock fixtures – then they’ll be done on a 6:4:2, and they will all be remote.

“There may be an occasion where, on a Saturday three o’clock match, if it particularly interests a territory – if you take Birmingham versus Coventry this last weekend, for example, where Birmingham’s owners are American – and it may well be that, in the future, the US licensee will want to show that and enhance beyond six cameras, then it may well be that we might do an OB for those matches. But otherwise, the intention is that everything through 6:4:2 will all be done remotely from here at Stockley Park.”

The OB provider for IMG on the EFL matches has not yet been announced. However, NEP Connect is providing the connectivity from the stadiums back to IMG’s galleries in Stockley Park.

Enhanced production

Francis adds that the main goal for both IMG, Sky Sports and the EFL in this enhanced broadcast is to show fans a significant improvement in production value. With Sky Sports the home of the EFL from the 2024/25 season, the fan favourites for viewing the EFL divisions – iFollow and club streaming services – have ceased to offer domestic live video coverage of EFL matches, which means Sky Sports has to show the deal is worthwhile for viewers.

Francis notes: “Because the iFollow product has gone for UK football fans – it’s all subsumed into Sky and their streaming service that they’re going to provide – we need to make sure that the fans of any club amongst the 72 only see an improvement. How they actually consume that is obviously not through their own club site anymore or through iFollow; it’s going to be through Sky.

“What we need to make sure is that the product that they actually consume is enhanced and better than they’ve had before, because that’s the sell to the fan at the consumer end.”

IMG’s enhanced production capabilities will not only provide an improved viewing experience for live broadcasts but also offer enhanced post-match highlights packages for partners and clubs.

Outside of Sky Sports’ main TV selections, all broadcasts will also feature enriched in-game graphics, alongside features including recaps and highlights from the live match plus games from earlier kick-offs.

Barney Francis says the addition of more cameras for EFL matches will provide increased opportunities for directors of all levels of experience

Added opportunities

The new coverage is providing opportunities for directors within the IMG fold, says Francis. “From a personnel point of view, it’s a brilliant opportunity for match directors, particularly on those six camera championship games, to go from four cameras to six.

“Our mix of directors is a real mix,” he continues. “From very experienced football directors, to up-and-coming football directors, and we know that they’ll be so keen. If Michelangelo had another 20 different colours, would he have painted the Sistine Chapel differently? Probably not. And that’s what we need, what we always teach new directors; just because you’ve got a load of new camera angles, don’t distort the story. Still tell the right story, but it just gives them new opportunities to improve match coverage.”

He adds: “Quite often it is a leap of faith for an executive producer or an executive director to allow bright, young talent to come through. What this does – it’s not a place for rookies, this is a genuine commercialised property, and therefore we are not chucking in anybody – but it is an opportunity to stretch the challenge by adding more facilities to people that are coming through here. Which is great for us, because they’re not all staff, of course, we pull in a lot of freelance people, but there wouldn’t be a director or burgeoning director out there whoever says, “I want less facilities”.”

Concludes Francis: “We are excited to take the EFL viewing experience to the next level for fans domestically and around the world, with upscaled production, enhanced coverage and continued innovation.”


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