The English Premier League has sold its television rights in China for $700 million in its biggest-ever overseas sale, a person familiar with the deal said on Thursday.
Online video streaming service PPTV sealed a three-year deal to broadcast all 380 matches each season across China from 2019-20, the person told The Associated Press.
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The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the negotiations are confidential with PPTV, a media division of China's Suning retail group which also owns Italian club Inter Milan.
PPTV's 2019-2022 deal is worth more than 10 times the current contract with Super Sports Media Group, which is paying around $20 million a season. PPTV also has the live rights for games from Spain's La Liga in China.
The bumper Premier League agreement is a sign of the anticipated enduring attraction of the world's richest soccer competition just as there has been discussion in England about declining domestic ratings for games.
The Premier League has just started a new TV rights cycle, generating around 8.3 billion pounds ($10 billion) from broadcasters through 2019, with more than 5.1 billion pounds coming from English pay-tv networks.
The rights through 2022 have already been sold in the United States to NBC, which signed a $1 billion, six-year deal. The windfall from PPTV eclipses NBC's contract in the latest hefty investment in soccer by China.
President Xi Jinping has made improving Chinese soccer a priority, from the grassroots to the international team. Chinese businessmen have responded to the president's call by elevating the country's influence in global soccer.
Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion, Aston Villa, and Wolverhampton Wanderers have received investment from China over the last year.
In Italy, Inter's rival, AC Milan, is also set to fall under Chinese ownership next month when Sino-Europe Sports completes its takeover from three-time former premier and billionaire businessman Silvio Berlusconi.
China is also looking to host the World Cup for the first time after Chinese conglomerate Wanda Group signed up as a FIFA sponsor until 2030.
Rob Harris is at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports