LeSports, PPTV bidding for online rights to Chinese Super League

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 8:35pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 February, 2017, 10:57pm

LeSports’ exclusive online broadcast rights to the Chinese Super League may come to an end soon as PPTV, the video streaming unit of electronics retailer Suning Holdings Group, is in talks to acquire the rights to also broadcast the soccer matches in the upcoming season, mainland media said.

LeSports, the sports unit of Chinese internet giant LeEco, and PPTV aremounting separate bids to pay about 500 million yuan each for the new media broadcast rights to all matches and broadcasting through internet-based over-the-top services this season, which kicks off March 4, mainland sports news website Sports Money said on Thursday.

Both Suning and LeEco declined to comment.

LeSports announced in February last year that it had acquired the exclusive new media broadcast rights to the CSL matches for two seasons since 2016 in a deal that worth 2.7 billion yuan.

The deal has brought the CSL matches to soccer fans on the mainland, Hong Kong, United States and Asian countries as they can watch the competitions online through LeTV’s set-top box and other smart devices.

The deal was signed with Tiao Power, a subsidiary of a state-backed investment company, which licensed the CSL broadcast rights for five years starting from 2016 for 8 billion yuan.

According to CSL’s rules, at least two new media platforms are required as broadcasters.

How China became a player in the world of soccer

LeSports prefers non-exclusive rights over exclusive rights in the second season because the CSL matches were unable to attract as many new paid subscribers as LeEco expected, the Sports Money report cited a source at LeSports as saying.

While LeSports won only the online broadcast rights, soccer fans can still watch the matches on TVs for free.

“With so many free TV stations broadcasting the matches for free, this is hurting the value of the CSL," LeSports’ chief content officer Liu Jianhong told media at the end of last year.

LeEco has been making huge investments in expanding the sports content of its online video site. It also acquired the exclusive rights to the English Premier League in Hong Kong, as well as FA Cup and the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia.

Suning, which became the largest shareholder of PPTV in 2013, is also ambitious in expanding its presence in the mainland sports sector.

PPTV signed a deal to broadcast the Spanish Soccer League matches on multimedia platforms for five seasons for 250 million euros (HK$2 billion) in 2015.

The electronics retailer, which separately runs an e-commerce business, also bought the media rights for the English Premier League for mainland China and Macau for US$721 million for the period from 2019 to 2022.

In June last year, it acquired about 70 per cent of Italian soccer club Inter Milan for 270 million euros.