Hong Kong-based streaming service PPLive Sports International, which is owned by Chinese retail conglomerate Suning and Italian football club Inter Milan, was not justified in withholding payments in a $700m broadcast deal, London’s HighCourt ruled yesterday.
The contract collapsed when PPLive failed to honour payments with the outbreak of coronavirus in Europe.
The Premier League subsequently was forced to postpone matches in March 2020 because of the pandemic. When play resumed in June, games took place without fans in attendance.
The league terminated the agreement and launched legal action against PPLive in 2020, with the streaming company retaliating with a counterclaim. The dispute centred on missed payments by PPLive, which was to pay the valueof the contract in instalments.
The deal with PPLive was one of the Premier League’s biggest overseas broadcast contracts.
The Premier League and PPLive did not respond torequests for comment.
“None of the defences advanced by PPL have, in my judgment, anything other than fanciful prospects of success,” said Mr Justice Fraser, who gave a summary judgment without trial.
The ruling also noted that “PPL had failed to pay a substantial amount of outstanding legal fees” owed to its solicitors.
The court asked the two groups to agree on interest payments and other costs tobe paid bythe broadcaster.
The missed payments came as PPLive parent Suning, which also owns Italian football club Inter Milan, was the subject of a $1.4bn bailout backed by Alibaba and Chinese local government last July. The Jiangsu-based retail group has suffered debt woes amid steep sales falls during the pandemic.
Although the Premier League and its 20 football teams paid Ј330m in rebates to some of its broadcaster partners, it failed to reach an agreement with PPLive.
The deal, which was struck in 2016, had been due to run until this year.
PPLive previously accused the league of treating domestic broadcasters “differently from a Chinese broadcaster” and said that it was left with “no choice but to take legal action” after failing to reach a compromise.
The Premier League signed a oneyear deal with Tencent to replace PPLive as its partner in China, although the contract was worth less than the previous one, people with knowledge of the terms said at the time.
Chinese streaming group IQIYI Sports holds exclusive broadcasting rights for the competition in mainland China and Macau from the 2021-22 season to 2024-25.
The Premier League has renewed broadcasting contracts in recent months, including contracts with Sky, BT and Amazon worth Ј5bn.