- Deal with digital broadcaster PPTV had two years to run
- Action taken over unpaid money owed under the contract
The Premier League has terminated its lucrative TV rights contract in China two years early, creating an immediate, major financial hole as football struggles to retain its revenues through the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ending of the deal with the digital broadcaster PPTV, a division of the Chinese conglomerate Suning Holdings, for unpaid money owed under the contract, follows a report in the Mail last month that the company had withheld a £160m instalment that was due in March. PP Sports committed in November 2016 to pay £564m for the live rights from 2019-22, to be shown in a mix of free-to-air and subscription packages, at the time the richest overseas TV deal the Premier League had signed.
In a statement, released while a meeting of all Premier League clubs was still continuing, the league said: “The Premier League confirms that it has today terminated its agreements for Premier League coverage in China with its licensee in that territory.”
League sources stressed that the reason for the contract termination was financial, not political, so distancing the decision from any fallout caused by the increasingly difficult relations between the British and Chinese governments. In July, after Premier League matches were relegated from China’s state broadcaster CCTV to lesser watched channels, some commentators linked that to the government’s ban of the Chinese telecoms giant Huawei from British 5G mobile networks, and other diplomatic issues, although this was not officially confirmed.
In emphasising that the decision was financial, the Premier League appeared to confirm the reports that it was in a dispute with PPTV over the contract payments. Suning Holdings describes itself as China’s leading sports industry group, with its subsidiary, PP Sports, having exclusive rights to Europe’s four other biggest top flight leagues, La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and Ligue 1. In 2016, Suning, founded in 1990 in Nanjing, China, bought a majority stake in Internazionale for £240m.
The company has been approached for comment.