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Chinese streaming platform iQIYI has struck an broadcast rights deal with the English Premier League. The deal gives it four years of football (soccer) coverage kicking off with the new season that begins in a couple of weeks (Aug. 14, 2021).

The deal gives iQiyi exclusive new media broadcast rights in mainland China and Macao. State-owned China Central Television remains as the terrestrial broadcaster.

The agreement follows the acrimonious collapse of the EPL’s previous multi-year deal with PPTV in 2019 and its replacement with a one-season deal for 2020-21 with Tencent Video.

A season pass will be offered at RMB318 and include all 380 Premier League matches in advertisement-free format, live at 1080/50-frame HD and with multilingual commentary. An early-bird offer of RMB228 for the season is available to fans signing up before the beginning of the season.

iQiyi Sports is a joint venture between Baidu-owned iQIYI and Chinese sports media and marketing company Super Sports Media, which is backed by sports and entertainment investor DDMC Group.
It was launched in 2018 and recently offered the Euro football championship. Its other football coverage includes Italy’s La Liga and the Asian Football Confederation.

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The signature of an exclusive deal may signal some resilience in the Chinese sports rights market after a period of falling prices and a trend towards non-exclusive deals. In other sectors, such as music, regulators have been pressurizing streamers to loosen positions that they regard as overly dominant.

PP Sports was reported to have paid $233 million per season under its three-season deal. Deal terms with iQiyi were not disclosed.

“In the just concluded Euro 2020, the “Three Lions, England’s national team, returned to the final of the international competition for the first time in 55 years in a campaign that ignited the enthusiasm of fans all over the world. iQiyi Sports, as the new media broadcasting platform for the Euro 2020, has gathered the largest crowd of football users in China this summer, and has successfully become the first choice of sports platform for fans,” the company said.

“During the summer transfer window of 2021, the big clubs in England have invested heavily in signing up world-class star players. In the new season, Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC, Manchester United FC and Chelsea FC are expected to challenge for the Premier League title, with Tottenham Hotspur FC, Arsenal FC, Leicester City FC and Everton FC also expected to be in contention for European competition places,” the company said.