By Adam Jourdan
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – The English Premier League has sold its television rights in China to streaming service PPTV for around $700 million, a source familiar with the matter said, several times the size of past deals as it cashes in on a growing enthusiasm for soccer.
The three-year deal with PPTV, part of retail group Suning, is one of the Premier League’s largest ever deals abroad and will kick in from the 2019/20 season, the source said. He could not be named as the deal is not yet public.
The Premier League has not confirmed the deal. PPTV, one of China’s largest streaming services which already owns the rights to Spain’s La Liga, declined to comment.
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 soccer academies, brought high-profile players and managers into China from overseas, and is buying into global assets from Italian club Inter Milan to Manchester City.
The Premier League, for its part, has seen television revenues shoot up globally in recent years – back home in Britain, pay-TV group Sky last year agreed to pay 4.2 billion pounds ($5.21 billion) to show 126 live English Premier League matches a season from 2016 to 2019.
NBC last year paid around $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 the cost of their previous three-year deal.
Beijing-based Super Sports Media are the current rights holders in China with local media reports suggesting they paid more than one billion yuan ($145.13 million) for a six-year deal until the end of the 2018-19 season.
The PPTV deal would clearly be a major step up from that with the company looking to offset the cost by tapping into the growing market for pay-per-view online streaming and subscription services in China.
A 2014 survey by Repucom estimated there were 170 million fans of the English Premier League in China, while Chinese state media last year reported that some 350 million had tuned into matches beamed live from Britain.
Suning have been enthusiastic supporters of President Xi’s ambitious plans for China to become a dominant force in the global sports market.
The acquisition of nearly 70 percent of Italian glamour club Inter for more than $300m in June was the first major step in its plan to create a global sports empire stretching from soccer clubs to online broadcasting.
($1 = 6.8903 Chinese yuan renminbi)
($1 = 0.8067 pounds)
(Reporting by Adam Jourdan; Additional writing by Nick Mulvenney in Melbourne; Editing by Himani Sarkar / Ian Ransom)