TeleRed Imagen to help pay AFA $30 mil in back wages

BUENOS AIRES — Sports programmer TeleRed Imagen (Trisa) has signed a $33 million deal with the Argentine Football Assn. for rights to games, possibly ending a crippling strike by helping the AFA pay $30 million in wages it owes players.

The strike, called July 31, three days before the start of the soccer season, has left Trisa struggling to fill skeds and has cut into pay TV revenue.

It already holds the small-screen rights to four first-division matches a week until 2014, for which it pays the AFA an increasing amount each year — $64 million for 2001.

Competitive field

Trisa airs the matches on local feevee TyC Sports but other pay TV operators market matches in premium packages as pay per view events.

The rights deal for a fifth weekly match is the key to getting the season rolling. AFA plans to pay some of the debt it owes to players and use the contract as a collateral for a bank loan to cover the remainder. AFA expects to secure the loan this week, and hopes to start the season Friday. However, banks have been reluctant to commit because of the country’s economic and financial crises.

With the local leagues on hold, Trisa is filling vacant slots with European games, said Trisa programming director Pedro Freire.

“The strike is delaying the revenue we would get from the season and hurting our ratings,” he added.

Trisa is a joint venture between local media conglom Grupo Clarin and sports programmer Torneos y Compentencias, which is 40% owned by Liberty Media.

TyC Sports is merging with Spanish-lingo channels Fox Sports Latin America and Fox Sports en Espanol.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more