Online sports channels tap into EPL fan base

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 Screenshot of PPTV's EPL broadcast.

In an emerging new trend, English Premier League fans on the Chinese mainland are getting the added options of watching the games online.

Supersports holds the exclusive EPL broadcasting rights on the Chinese mainland and Macau, and it wasn't till early this week that it sold the rights to the local TV channel, STV Great Sports, implying a prolonged negotiations for the TV rights.

The Beijing-based Supersports has the rights until the 2018-19 season and reportedly paid more than 1 billion yuan (US$162.5 million) for the exclusive mainland deal.

Besides television, Supersports has been keen to tap into the online streaming market.

As television viewers fretted if the games would be broadcast live,, a video and live program provider, struck a deal at a whopping US$11 million for 380 games this season. That was a massive jump from last year's US$1.1 million.

PPTV will offer four matches free for online viewing but will charge for the other matches every game day in the 20-team league. Zhou Liang, marketing director of the Shanghai-based PPTV, told Shanghai Daily yesterday they would decide on the exact fees after taking Supersports, which also has its own website, charges into account.

Supersports is offering four of the 10 first-round EPL games for free on its website Fans will have to pay from 1.99 yuan for standard versions, and 9.99 yuan for a high-definition version for each of the other six games.


According to Lou Yichen, a veteran TV commentator, Supersports jacked up the prices this year. Lou said last year Great Sports had reached an agreement long before the start of the season.

"It's like scalpers selling concert tickets,"Lou said. "The price will come down once the performance starts. The rights owner has to sell the rights to sub-broadcasters to make up for the huge investments.”

EPL matches were not available on local channels for a while in 2007 when the rights were with Wintv Digital TV Development Ltd. The company went bankrupt as not many fans were willing to pay 188 yuan a month or 588 yuan a year to watch the games online.

"Fans hesitate to pay that kind of money after having watched the games for free for many years,"said Shen Jing, a keen follower of the league. "I don't mind paying money, like less than 5 yuan for a game, but with stable signal.”

Shen, a Liverpool fan, said she had paid 4 yuan to watch a game last season on an online platform since it was not broadcast on television. Some of the EPL games are broadcast later to accommodate Chinese Super League or other local sports.

PPTV has been showing live EPL games since 2010. Zhou said a game between two big clubs can attract over 1 million users, while for other games it draws anywhere between 250,000 to 350,000.

PPTV's Zhou said it was reasonable to ask for a small payment to watch the games. Besides, the added attractions of online viewing was its mobility. Fans can watch the games outdoors and on the move.

"As long as we provide stable and quality signal with decent commentary and match statistics, fans will be willing to pay. It is as good as going to a cinema or other forms of entertainments.”

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