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By ESPN Staff

Chinese Premiership fans to pay to view

BEIJING, Feb 13 (Reuters) - China's 30 million Premiership fans will no longer be able to watch live matches for free from next season.

WinTV, run by Guangdong Provincial Television, have won the broadcasting rights for three years from September -- and it will charge viewers 188 yuan ($24) a month for the privilege.

'The fans will have to endure the pain of the change,' WinTV chief executive Song Zheng, who refused to disclose the fee his company paid, told a news conference on Monday.

'Let's say goodbye to free Premier League. No more free lunch in the future.'

Chinese can currently watch games live on ESPN-Star, a joint venture of Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. , via a local cable TV broadcasting service which costs a fraction of the WinTV price.

Chelsea are one of several Premier League clubs who have targeted the Chinese market and the English champions recently launched a Mandarin Web site.

Song, whose station has just 40,000 subscribers, said he was confident of winning over enough viewers among Chinese obsessed with football and the English top flight.

WinTV will also provide coverage on mobile devices and the Internet along with live TV.

'Fans can enjoy the games in various convenient ways,' he said. 'There's only one premise -- pay.'