Scottish Premiership matches will continue to be live streamed in China this season after a major deal was struck by internet firm Tencent.
According to The Drum, Tencent Sports - the sporting arm of the Shenzhen-based Tencent investment holding company - has agreed a deal that will see matches from the FA Cup, Ligue 1 in France, Serie A in Italy and the Scottish top flight streamed live in China.
The deal will give football fans in China access to five major European football competitions, including the UEFA Champions League and the Bundesliga.
Scottish Premiership matches were shown last season, but with the rights held exclusively by Suning Sports and PPTV.
The non-exclusive rights deal covers mainland China for the 2017/18 season, with fans able to watch six Ligue 1 matches each round (228 matches per season in total) as well as all 10 Serie A fixtures per round.
The Community Shield was shown this past weekend, while 40 live FA Cup matches will be screened from the first to fifth round, followed by all seven matches from the quarter final stage onwards.
The agreement is part of Tencent’s ongoing drive to invest in content and widen its entertainment offerings.
The service, which will likely be behind a paywall, will include additional content including highlights programmes and an online community where fans can get updates as well as watch live matches, compete in quizzes for prizes and interact with fellow fans.
David Hornby, head of sports at China-based digital marketing agency Mailman, told The Drum that the rights were ‘extremely significant’ for Tencent Sports.
Mr Hornby added: “In the last two years, PPTV and Suning Sports have been acquiring the premium football content on an exclusive basis, becoming the home of European football on IPTV in China.
“For this season at least though, Tencent Sports will be broadcasting three of the top five European leagues. This is also great news for the football and sports rights holders.
“It shows that Tencent Sports are still willing to invest in acquiring content, and will continue to drive the value of sports rights in China.”
China’s ambition to improve football skills and eventually host the FIFA World Cup has led to a huge spike in the sport’s popularity.
The Chinese Super League has attracted players such as ex-Chelsea midfielder Oscar, former Manchester City striker Carlos Tevez as well as high-calibre managers such as 2002 World Cup winner Luiz Felipe Scolari.