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Alibaba and Suning sports joint-venture called off

Discussions on a joint-venture between Chinese conglomerate Alibaba’s streaming platform Youku Sports and Suning’s own streaming platform PPTV have broken down, according to media reports.

Youku and PPTV are two of the biggest sports streaming platforms in the market. Under their previous agreement , PPTV shares some content with Youku, including the Chinese domestic football league, Asian Football Confederation, Uefa Champions League, Spanish LaLiga, German Bundesliga, and Italian Serie A.

According to a report on tech.sina.com, while the joint venture was in discussions, several PPTV employees had moved over to Youku offices, but in early August those employees had left.

Media reports indicated that the reason for the breakdown was because of a sudden increase in demands by Suning, beyond what Alibaba was willing to pay. Subsequently, Suning has immediately pulled Youku’s access to PPTV’s sport content, with Youku’s website posting an apology notice to subscribers that read: ” Due to restrictions on content, after Aug 8 we will be unable to provide live football content on our platform any further. Members will be able to get full refunds and no further fees will be charged.”

This move is a further blow for Alibaba’s plan to establish Youku as a strong sports content platform, after they missed out on NBA digital broadcast rights in China to current holders Tencent in July.

Alibaba, whose core business is China’s biggest e-commerce platform, has sports assets including  Youku Sports and Ali Sports, which has activities in media rights acquisitions, sponsorship and event operation, among others.

Suning’s sports assets include Italian football club Inter Milan, Chinese football club Jiangsu Suning, streaming platform PPTV, and a chain of sports goods shops.

The two companies have worked together since at least 2015, when Alibaba invested in Suning, becoming its second-biggest shareholder. In July last year, Suning Sports raised $600m in an investment round from firms including Alibaba and bank Goldman Sachs.

Aside from Youku and PPTV, the other major players in the Chinese streaming rights market are Tencent Sports and iQiyi.