Chinese online video-streaming giant LeEco has announced that it has won the exclusive rights in Hong Kong to broadcast all FIFA football matches between 2016 and 2018, including the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
A spokesperson of the company, previously known as LeTV, told HKFP that the “all-media broadcast rights in Hong Kong” to the matches have been granted to its sports website LeSports.
Earlier on Thursday, CEO of LeSports Cheng Yizhong said that the rights were exclusive and the price of the deal was “very cheap”, reported Apple Daily.
The company may have spent more than HK$400 million to get the rights, a source in the television industry told the newspaper.
In May 2014, i-CABLE Communications Limited, the company behind the Cable TV station, announced its exclusive acquisition of all Hong Kong media rights to the 258 European Qualifiers & Play-offs and 10 friendlies for the Russia National Team of the 2018 World Cup.
Cable TV will continue broadcasting the matches, a spokesperson of the company told the newspaper.
Some of the matches of the World Cup final tournaments must be broadcast on free television channels, according to FIFA rules. Cheng said that this will be discussed with free television channels later on, according to the report.
Local channel TVB won the rights to broadcast the 2014 Brazil World Cup final tournaments. Out of the 64 matches, 22 were broadcast on its free channel.
Other free television channels in 2018 include two operated by RTHK and viuTV, a new channel to start in April.
In September last year, LeEco also won the exclusive local broadcast rights for the English Premier League.
— FIFAWorldCup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 17, 2015
Hopes hang in balance
The 2018 World Cup will be held between June 14 and July 15 in multiple cities in Russia.
Hong Kong, competing to win a place at the finals, is now in second place of Group C of the qualifiers, but have played one more game than group leaders Qatar, who have already qualified for the next stage.
Hong Kong must win their remaining match, scheduled for March in Qatar, to advance as one the four best-second-placed teams.
Qatar, widely regarded as a stronger team, beat Hong Kong 3-2 at the Mong Kok Stadium in September last year.