The English Premier League is so popular in China that its broadcast rights just became more expensive there than anywhere else in the world outside the UK.
China’s retail giant Suning has bought the soccer league’s three-year television rights in China for $700 million, the Associated Press first reported on Nov. 17, citing an unidentified source. Reuters also reported on the purchase.
Kicking in from the 2019-20 season, the deal is worth 10 times the Premier League’s current China contract, and is also its biggest-ever overseas sale, according to the AP. By comparison, last year NBC signed a $1 billion, six-year deal (paywall) for the league’s broadcast rights in the US.
For 2016 to 2019, the Premier League will generate over £8.3 billion ($10.3 billion) from new contracts with global broadcasters, a 50% surge from the previous three-season period.
In recent years Suning has rapidly expanded its investments in the sport. After taking over the video streaming service PPTV in 2013, the retail group bought five-year rights for live games from Spain’s La Liga for €250 million ($265 million). In 2015, it acquired a top Chinese team and then lured some of the world’s best players on board with its generous paychecks. Most recently, it took a controlling stake in Italy’s Inter Milan club for $300 million in June.
Chinese president Xi Jinping’s much-publicized obsession with “the beautiful game” has spurred Chinese investors to bet on the sport, both at home and abroad. One Chinese consortium invested $400 million in the Manchester City club in December 2015, and another bought Italy’s legendary AC Milan team for $820 million this summer.