Asia to pay $1.8 billion for rights to screen live EPL matches till 2016

Fans of English Premier League football team Manchester United cheer during a friendly match with Hong Kong team Kitchee at Hong Kong stadium on July 29, 2013. The English Premier League will earn 941 million pounds (S$1.8 billion) from broadcas
Fans of English Premier League football team Manchester United cheer during a friendly match with Hong Kong team Kitchee at Hong Kong stadium on July 29, 2013. The English Premier League will earn 941 million pounds (S$1.8 billion) from broadcasters in Asia for rights to screen live matches from this season to 2016. -- PHOTO: AFP

LONDON - Anyone doubting the influence Asia has on the English Premier League need only to consider this: It will earn 941 million pounds (S$1.8 billion) from broadcasters in the continent for rights to screen live matches from this season to 2016.

That sum is the biggest contribution to the 2.23 billion the league will earn from the sale of its overseas rights from 2013-2016, reported the Sporting Intelligence website.

And Singapore (190.1 million pounds) has forked out more for the rights than any other country except Thailand, which paid 204.8 million pounds for the three-year deal that also covers Laos and Cambodia.

For Chris Renner, CEO of global sports marketing firm Helios Partners, it is no surprise that Asia - and in particular South-east Asia - is paying top dollar to watch EPL matches.

"The demand is huge in this region because there's no real football leagues here," he told the Straits Times at the sidelines of the Sports Matters conference at St Regis Hotel in Singapore on Thursday.

"For a country like Singapore, it's an advanced economy with good disposable income and great technology. This adds up to an eager audience demanding a top-quality product, which is a killer combination for the EPL to sell their rights."

Not only is Asia paying more, it is paying more than before.

For 2010-2013, the EPL earned 1.43 billion pounds from all overseas rights, with 531 million pounds from Asia. That means the total pot has ballooned by 55 per cent, thanks to the value of Asian rights increasing by 77 per cent.

Mike Rich, CEO of media investment agency GroupM ESP, believes that the cost of rights will keep rising. "Although the communications landscape is changing with more people watching shows online, big sporting events are still viewed on TV - that makes sports rights like the EPL very valuable," he said. "That value will increase as it's one of the few things that forces people to watch TV."

Additional reporting by Sanjay Nair