LeSports scrambles to hold on to premium AFC broadcast rights for China

February 27 – Chinese technology conglomerate LeEco looks to be losing its appetite for sports with its broadcast division LeSports scrambling to hold on to prime broadcast rights.

In December 2016, LeSports made a last minute payment to the Premier League to honour its rights deal. But last week a potentially bigger issue arose with the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) reportedly cancelling a $100 million deal for all its competitions when LeSports failed to meet a rights payment.

The AFC deal is arguably the jewel in the crown of LeSports’ broadcast rights as it covers all AFC competitions including the Asian Champions League (where Chinese teams have made a big impact), Asia’s final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup finals and the Asian Cup from 2017 until 2020.

As China inevitably builds towards improved national team performances to match the huge investment in the sport, LeSports looks increasingly likely to miss out on the boom in the country’s broadcast audiences for its own teams in regional competition – broadcast history shows channels struggle long term to survive on a diet of imported rights only.

LeSports bought the Chinese Super League rights in a two-year deal worth $392 million at the start of 2016. There was also a proposal to buy CSL club Beijing Guoan that was never completed. LeSports holds Chinese rights to the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

LeEco forecast cash shortages last November and in December released staff in LeSports. In January it announced it had received a $2.19 billion investment from property developer Sunac China Holdings.

The question now is whether that cash will be used to support its sports broadcast business or used in other investment areas.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1680331356labto1680331356ofdlr1680331356owedi1680331356sni@n1680331356osloh1680331356cin.l1680331356uap1680331356

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