By Jonathan Easton
The English Premier League is facing a hole in its balance sheet of more than £500 million after terminating its rights deal with Chinese digital broadcaster PPTV.
The broadcaster and league had reportedly been on a collision course since March, when the broadcaster withheld a payment of £160 million(US$212.63million) amid the coronavirus shutdown.
In a statement published on Twitter, the league announced: “The Premier League confirms that it has today terminated its agreements for #PL coverage in China with its licensee in that territory.”
This cancellation comes almost four years after PP Sports agreed a £564 million distribution deal with the league to cover 2019-22, with the broadcaster showing matches on a mixture of free-to-air and pay-TV. The deal represented at the time the biggest international agreement signed by the Premier League and its cancellation leaves it scrambling for a broadcaster in one of the world’s richest economies with less than two weeks before the 2020-21 season’s start.
Despite political tensions between the UK and China – including the latter’s decision to block broadcast of Arsenal’s fixture against Manchester City in December following tweets from Mesut Özil in support of persecuted and imprisoned Uighur Muslims – a number of sources cited by The Guardian said that the decision to withdraw from the deal was financially motivated.
PP Sports is owned by Suning Holdings, and holds the exclusive Chinese rights for La Liga, Serie A, the German Bundesliga and Ligue 1.