The English Premier League is assessing its options after its rights-holding broadcaster in China, streaming platform PPTV, is reported to have failed to make a rights-fee payment due earlier this year.
UK newspaper the Daily Mail reported that PPTV, owned by conglomerate Suning Holdings, failed to make a payment worth £160m (€189m/$210m) due in March. PPTV has a deal with the league worth around $233m per season for the three seasons from 2019-20 to 2021-22.
PPTV is understood to have tried to negotiate down the value of the deal and at the same time to have offered to extend it for another three seasons, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the Premier League season and on the platform’s business.
The Premier League 2019-20 season was suspended between March and June due to the pandemic, and concluded in a six-week blitz of games between June 17 and July 26.
Some Premier League broadcasters have attempted to negotiate reductions in their rights fees due to the schedule changes, as have broadcasters of other sports properties interrupted by Covid-19 around the world.
PPTV is understood to have also tried to renegotiate the terms of rights deals for other sports properties in recent months due to the Covid-19 impact, including a deal with the IMG agency for Italian Serie A rights.
It has been reported that Premier League clubs discussed PPTV’s late payment at a shareholders’ meeting last week. They are said to be considering options including demanding an immediate payment, negotiating a revised payment schedule, or terminating the deal.
The PPTV deal is a significant one, even among the Premier League’s array of high-value media rights agreements. It is the league’s second most valuable international media-rights deal for the 2019-20 to 2021-22 cycle, after its agreement with pay-television broadcaster SuperSport covering sub-Saharan Africa.
The Premier League declined to comment when contacted by SportBusiness today (Wednesday).
Even before Covid-19 struck, PPTV was struggling with the high cost of its sports rights acquisitions, and industry insiders claim there have been several instances of late rights-fee payments. A spending spree in recent years included deals for the German Bundesliga and the Uefa Champions League, among other properties, in addition to the Premier League and Serie A.
In many cases, PPTV paid aggressive fee increases compared to the previous cycles. Most of the deals were done during a period of strong competition for sports content between Chinese streaming platforms that has since died down.
Last year, Suning Sport – Suning Holdings’ sports subsidiary which controls PPTV – laid off a large number of staff. There were talks between Suning Holdings and Chinese internet giant Alibaba about merging PPTV with the latter’s streaming platform Youku, but the two parties never reached a deal.
Suning Holdings’ main business is in retail – it is one of China’s biggest operators with a host of online and bricks-and-mortar stores. As well as Suning Sports, the company has one other major investment in sport – a 70-per-cent stake in Italian Serie A club Inter Milan.