StarTimes, the Chinese-owned pay-television operator in sub-Saharan Africa, is facing the threat of a winding up order after failing to pay beIN Media Group for rights to French football’s Ligue 1, according to a GlobalData report.
GlobalData also says that the broadcaster, which is part of Hong Kong-based holding company, Century Sun, has delayed payments to other rights-holders, albeit these have not escalated to legal proceedings as yet.
StarTimes has been expanding its portfolio of top-tier football in recent years – in August last year it landed non-exclusive French language rights to Spanish football’s La Liga for four years, and other competitions it is showing in the 2020-21 season include Spain’s Copa del Rey, England’s FA Cup, Italy’s Coppa Italia and Europe’s UeEFA Europa League and delayed 2020 European Championships.
However, it is the deal struck mid-way through 2018 for the English- and local-language rights to Ligue 1 and other French football properties in sub-Saharan Africa that has brought to light the financial difficulties facing the broadcaster.
Having failed to make any payments for those rights, StarTimes is currently in debt to beIN to the tune of close to $11 million, including interest, according to the court petition.
After the matter was taken to the courts in Hong Kong, a new monthly payment plan instigated by StarTimes was agreed upon by the two parties prior to the start of the 2019-20 season, but StarTimes missed the first instalment due on October 1st.
Talks between the two parties’ legal representatives since have failed to reach a conclusion, with beIN, which holds international Ligue 1 rights from 2018-19 to 2023-24, having now taken the decision to issue a winding up order on StarTimes.
StarTimes has been a sponsor of Ghana’s Premier League, and the company is involved in Ghana’s embattled digital terrestrial transmission (DTT) implementation process, through which government wants to implement a conditional access (CA).
Industry players allege that the implementation of the CA would mean StarTimes and its assigns would remotely control the broadcasting space in the country, hiding behind a state structure.