PPTV to buy EPL rights in $1b deal

The English Premier League (EPL) has sold its television rights in China to streaming service PPTV for US$700 million (S$1 billion), a figure several times the size of past deals, according to a source familiar with the matter .

A spokesman for PPTV, part of retail group Suning , confirmed a three-year deal that will kick in from the 2019-20 season. He did not comment on its value with the agreement yet to be formalised.

"We were successful in our bid, but it hasn't formally been signed yet," said PPTV spokesman Sun Xiaobo. "We've definitely already won the tender."

The EPL has not confirmed the deal, which would be worth about 12 times more than the current accord for TV rights in China.

PPTV is one of China's largest streaming services and already owns the rights to Spain's La Liga, which it paid US$270 million for last year. It also owns nearly 70 per cent of Italian club Inter Milan, paying about US$300 million in June for the stake.

Under President Xi Jinping, China has been looking to expand its global presence in the sport.

It has invested billions of dollars to develop grassroots academies, brought high-profile players and managers into China from overseas, and is buying into global assets like Inter and Manchester City.

The EPL, for its part, has seen television revenues shoot up globally in recent years. In Britain, pay TV group Sky last year agreed to pay £4.2 billion (S$7.4 billion) to show 126 live matches a season from 2016 to 2019.

NBC last year paid around US$1 billion for a six-year deal to broadcast the league in the United States until the end of the 2021-22 season, near double that of their previous three-year deal.

Beijing-based Super Sports Media is the current rights holder in China with local media reports suggesting they paid more than 1 billion yuan (S$207 million) for a six-year deal until the end of the 2018-19 season.

The deal with PPTV will allow the EPL to tap into the growing market for pay-per-view online streaming and subscription services in China.

A 2014 survey by Repucom estimated 170 million fans of the league in China, while Chinese state media last year reported that some 350 million had tuned in to matches beamed live from Britain.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2016, with the headline 'PPTV to buy EPL rights in $1b deal'. Print Edition | Subscribe