Bid for winding-up order against TV channel LeSports HK

Court petition from broadcast rights company comes as subscribers still in the dark over why channel’s English Premier League coverage has gone off the air

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 8:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 March, 2018, 10:52pm

The Hong Kong-based sports streaming arm of cash-starved mainland Chinese conglomerate LeEco has been issued with a winding-up petition by an international sports broadcast rights company.

The two listed applicants – MP & Silva Pte and Media Partners & Silva – on Monday applied to the High Court to liquidate the business of Hong Kong Sports Industrial Development – formerly known as LeTV Sports Culture Develop (Hong Kong) Company – according to court documents. The papers did not provide any information beyond the company’s name and the identities of its creditors.

MP & Silva is “a full-service global sports media agency that connects passionate fans with clubs, broadcasters and brands”, according to its website.

It previously stripped LeSports HK – which also airs NBA basketball in the city – of its rights to show the English FA Cup final last May after it defaulted on payments, despite several reductions and deferrals.

The petition came as customers of LeSports HK – which airs English Premier League and NBA matches in the city – were still in the dark over why its soccer coverage had gone off the air, with the consumer watchdog urging the company to explain its state of business.

Subscribers who emailed complaints to the company since the outage received an automated reply from customer services.

“LeSports HK would like to express our sincere apologies for the Premier League broadcasting problem,” the email read. “LeSports HK is now investigating the cause of the problem and waiting for the result.”

The private company, run by chief executive Lei Zhenjian, had been quick to distance itself from LE Corporation, another Hong Kong arm of LeEco, when that company last December filed a petition to wind up its own operations in the city, which was eventually granted by the High Court last month.

A company statement at the time read: “The winding-up application for LE Corporation Limited has nothing to do with LeSports HK. Nor will it have any impact on LeSports HK’s business.”

Still, the company is no stranger to court action.

Last year, advertising company Innity China Company lodged a civil suit against LeSports involving overdue advertising fees of up to HK$3.85 million. The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which organises the Wimbledon tennis championships in Britain, later applied to put an end to LeSports’ business operations last August, claiming it owed three years’ worth of broadcast payments. It withdrew the application two months later.

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The first hearing for the present winding-up action has been scheduled for May 16.

By 5pm on Tuesday, Hong Kong Customs had received seven complaints against LeSports HK. The government department said it had approached company bosses to look into the matter.

Meanwhile, the Consumer Council issued a statement urging the company to inform the public of what had happened.

If the service provider concerned cannot fulfil the contract, it must provide a detailed account to consumers as to whether they will get a refund, or offer terms of compensation, to address their concerns
Consumer Council

“If the service provider concerned cannot fulfil the contract, it must provide a detailed account to consumers as to whether they will get a refund, or offer terms of compensation, to address their concerns,” the statement read.

Hong Kong Broadband Network, which offers LeSports HK content to its subscribers, said on Tuesday it would refund the unused part of their payments for the service. The refund would be credited in their statements from April, HKBN said in a post on its official Facebook page.

HKBN said it had tried to contact LeSports HK in recent days but to no avail, and apologised to customers.

Now TV, a pay-TV service provider in Hong Kong operated by PCCW Media, had partnered with LeSports to broadcast Premier League matches. Its spokesman said it had no immediate comment.

LeSports HK could not be reached for comment.

LeEco got a 15 billion yuan (HK$18.6 billion) boost for its subsidiaries in January last year from property magnate Sun Hongbin, chairman of Tianjin-based property developer Sunac China Holdings.

It was announced last November that Sun had tried to bail out LeEco for a second time by providing US$270 million (HK$2.1 billion) in loans to its video streaming and television businesses Leshi Internet and Leshi Zhixin.

Sun refused to make any further financial commitments earlier this year.