A sports and entertainment network, beIN Media Group, has filed a petition in a Hong Kong court seeking a winding-up order against StarTimes, a Chinese electronics and media company, over an alleged $11m debt for broadcasting rights to the French football Ligue 1.
According to sports market intelligence platform, GlobalData, that StarTimes, in 2018, signed a deal with beIN Media Group which holds international Ligue 1 rights from 2018-19 to 2023-24 to broadcast English- and local-language Ligue 1 in sub-Saharan Africa.
The pay-TV operator is reported to now owe beIN $11m, including interest.
In addition to Ligue 1 rights, StarTimes also has non-exclusive French-language rights to the Spanish football league, LaLiga, 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 UEFA Europa League and delayed 2020 European Championships.
It also has a seven-year $7.7m deal with the Kenyan Football Federation, the Confederation of African Football for the African Nations Championship, Extreme E motor racing series and the USA’s Impact Wrestling.
The company has 13 million subscribers, including over seven million in Nigeria.
A source familiar with the legal proceedings was quoted to have said, “It should be of huge concern to the industry that an entity facing winding-up proceedings is, in the same breath, parading around the world signing deals with much fanfare. We’ve seen this kind of conduct before and it only ends badly for rights-holders and the industry.”
However, a source in StarTimes Nigeria, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the report as a smear campaign by “the other party,” saying it was simply a dispute between two partners.
When contacted, the Public Relations Manager, StarTimes Nigeria, Lazarus Ibeabuchi, declined to comment on the court order, saying to do so would amount to contempt of court.