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China’s Suning to pay $650m for Premier League TV rights

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Shanghai, China | AFP |

A Chinese conglomerate has won the rights to broadcast the English Premier League in China for three years, it said Friday, with reports putting the deal’s value at $650 million.

The contract would represent a huge uplift on the previous contract as Chinese money pours into football, including major investments in England, and businesses rush to support President Xi Jinping’s national footballing ambitions.

“The feedback that the board of the English Premier League gave us is that we have won the bid” to broadcast the English Premier League from 2019 to 2022, a spokesman for Suning Holdings’s PPTV unit told AFP.

The exclusive media rights cover mainland China and its special administrative region Macau, a Suning spokeswoman said, adding they still have paperwork to sign before making an official announcement.

PPTV is an online streaming platform under the sports arm of the Suning Holdings company, which paid 270 million euros (then $306 million) in June for a majority stake of Inter Milan.

It also owns Chinese Super League club Jiangsu Suning, which twice broke the Asian transfer record this year to sign Ramires from Chelsea for 28 million euros and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Alex Teixeira for 50 million euros.

The three-year TV rights were worth more than $650 million, Bloomberg News reported, marking a 12-fold increase on the current contract due to intense competition for the rights.

Friday’s announcement by PPTV came soon after the start of a new Premier League television rights cycle, which has generated some £8.3 billion ($10 billion) worldwide through 2019.

In the United States, leading terrestrial television network NBC signed a $1 billion six-year deal for the American rights through to 2022.

PPTV’s entry into the Premier League broadcast rights market follows huge Chinese investment into English football clubs of more than £500 million ($668 million) since December 2015.

The impact has been greatest in the Midlands where Premier League West Bromwich Albion and second-tier Aston Villa, Birmingham City and Wolverhampton Wanderers are now all owned by Chinese businessman or corporations.

Last month, a Chinese consortium struck a preliminary agreement to buy Premier League Hull City for £130 million ($159 million), conditional on approval by English football authorities.

But the investment is not limited to outright control, with the Chinese’s government’s 13 percent stake in Abu Dhabi-controlled Premier League giants Manchester City one of a number of shareholdings in English clubs.

Chinese firms have spent lavishly this year on football clubs, players, and broadcasting rights in an effort to diversify their businesses and aid Xi’s dream of making China into a global centre of gravity for the sport.

Xi is a known football fan and in 2011 — when he was then vice president — he laid out three hopes for China’s soccer future: to qualify for another World Cup, to host a World Cup and to win a World Cup.

Sport planners hope to turn China into a “world football superpower” by 2050, with a target of 50 million people playing the game by 2020, according to a plan published by the Chinese Football Association in April.

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