July 12, 2017 / 12:25 PM / 2 months ago

DDMC grabs China EPL soccer rights in $500 mln deal for Super Sports

BEIJING, July 12 (Reuters) - Chinese sports and entertainment firm Wuhan DDMC Culture Co has agreed to buy Super Sports Media for $500 million, it said on Wednesday, giving it the TV rights to the English Premier League (EPL) in China.

Super Sports Media Inc, a Cayman Islands-based company, is the current holder of broadcasting rights to England’s top soccer league in China, which it owns up until the end of the 2018/2019 season.

DDMC said in a filing to the Shanghai stock exchange that it would be making the acquisition via its Hong Kong unit.

Trading in DDMC’s shares, which has been halted since mid-February, will remain suspended.

The latest deal signals a consolidation of power over soccer rights in the world’s second largest economy as Chinese companies spend heavily to capture sports viewers.

Super Sports has been streaming the English game in China for the past seven years and has been ambitiously pushing for a pay-per-view model.

However, last year, it was outbid by PPTV, a unit of retail giant Suning Commerce Group Co, in a $700 million deal for three-year EPL content rights from 2019 onwards.

DDMC, which has business in marketing and agent services and other sports investments, set up a joint venture last month with Suning to manage foreign soccer rights in China.

The consolidation means Suning, the owner of Italian club Inter Milan, and DDMC will have most European soccer rights under their control, including Spain’s La Liga, German Bundesliga and the Premier League.

“The deal means we will have an integrated platform for content managing and operation, and strengthen our bargaining power against foreign content providers,” said a source close to the deal.

Prices for high-quality sports content have shot up in China with increasing competition between local rivals including Suning, Super Sports, LeSports, Sina Sports and others. (Reporting by Pei Li in Beijing and Twinnie Siu in Hong Kong; Editing by Keith Weir)

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