Tencent swoops for CSL digital rights after PP Sports deal terminated
Tencent, the Chinese internet giant, has agreed a three-year domestic digital rights deal for the Chinese Super League, the country’s top-tier soccer competition, after a previous contract with PP Sports ended early.
The new agreement comes into effect for the 2021 season, which kicks off later this month, and runs to 2023.
It is understood to be non-exclusive, with the league able to negotiate deals with other platforms.
Tencent will show live matches, and will also have on-demand and short video-clip rights to the CSL.
The content will be available on the Tencent Video streaming platform, the dedicated Tencent Sports service, the Tencent News channel, and through its accounts on Chinese social media platforms WeChat and QQ.
Last month, PP Sports, the streaming service owned by domestic retail corporation Suning which had been the exclusive holder of domestic CSL digital rights since 2016, had its deal terminated - with several years still left to run - amid reports of unpaid fees.
According to Chinese media, PP Sports only paid Yn150 million ($23 million) of Yn1.1 billion that was owed for 2020, a year in which all broadcasters and sports properties were heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision to terminate the agreement left the CSL scrambling for a new domestic rights partner before the start of the 2021 campaign.
At the time, it was reported that Tencent, and other Chinese streaming players such as Migu and iQIYI Sports, would be contenders for rights, but that they would be unlikely to pay as much as PP Sports, amid a general downturn in the value. It was also reported that the rights were likely to be split up into several non-exclusive packages.
The 2021 CSL season starts on 20 April, and runs until 5 August.
Tencent also replaced PP Sports as a Chinese rights holder for the ongoing 2020-21 season of English soccer’s top-tier Premier League, after PP Sports was said to have failed to honour a $210.3 million payment for live games, and one worth a further $5 million to cover highlights.
The Premier League subsequently agreed a one-year rights deal with Tencent for the current campaign, although this was reported to be worth significantly less than what PP Sports was contracted to pay.
Earlier this year, Suning announced it was withdrawing support for its Chinese soccer clubs, including 2020 CSL champions Jiangsu FC, in order to focus on its core retail businesses in the country.
Tencent also has rights in China to major North American sports leagues such as basketball’s NBA and American football’s NFL, and to motor racing’s Formula 1 and Extreme E.