Welcome to the latest edition of the China Sports Business Weekly.
In the news this week: Time almost up for CSL, Barca doc on Bytedance platforms, Wanda Sports has a Q1 to forget, AFC for ELTA in Chinese Taipei, WCBA ends early, Lazio bets on HQ, the ultimate guide to social media in China, an Inside Word from industry veteran Yu Hang, gaming platforms get a slap on the wrist for heavy advertising, plus the Top 10 badminton players on Weibo.
In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Leo Lin, Co-CEO of TJ Sports, a Joint Venture established between Tencent & Riot Games, about changing strategy during COVID-19, growth, the retirement of Uzi, and where opportunities lie.
Top Industry News
1) Time Running Out For CSL The clock is ticking for the Chinese Super League (CSL) to get back underway. July presents the latest possible start for the league, as China’s FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign is set to recommence in October. Read more on SCMP (English) and Tencent (Chinese)
2) Barcelona Documentary Released on Bytedance Platforms in China The technology company that owns Douyin and Toutiao debuted ‘Matchday’ on its content platforms in China. The documentary series created by Barça Studios includes previously unseen footage of the first team’s day-to-day lives. Chinese fans will be able to watch eight 45-minute episodes centred around eight key games played during the 2018/2019 season. Read more on Barcelona (English) and Techweb (Chinese)
3) Wanda Sports 2020 Q1 Revenues Drop 26%
Wanda Sports Group’s (WSG) total annual Q1 revenues fell by 26 percent to $180M, primarily due to heavy losses within the company’s spectator sports and mass participation divisions. Wanda’s comparative yearly spectator revenues fell by 28 percent to $154M for the three months ending March 31. Read more on SportsPro (English) and Sina (Chinese)
4) ELTA Claims AFC Rights in Chinese Taipei The exclusive deal includes the AFC’s major national team and club competitions, including the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Asian Qualifiers Final Round, the AFC Cup and AFC Champions League from the 2021 season, the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 and the AFC U23 Championship Finals in 2022 and 2024. Read more on AFC (English) and Sohu (Chinese)
5) Remainder of WCBA Season Cancelled The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) announced the cancellation of the remainder of the 2019-20 Women's Chinese Basketball Association season. The final standings are confirmed after 18 rounds, meaning Beijing are crowned champions, followed by Dongguan and Jiangsu. Read more on China Daily (English) and Tencent (Chinese)
6) Lazio Signs HQ Bet Partnership
The Serie A football club’s latest partnership is part of a broader expansion plan in the Asian market. The deal, which runs until 2022, was announced 24 hours after the club launched channels on WeChat and Weibo, as well as a Chinese language version of the club’s website. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Sina (Chinese)
Best of the Rest
The Ultimate Introduction to Social Media in China KAWO, the enterprise social media management platform for China, has just dropped the most comprehensive and up-to-date guide to the Digital Landscape in China. This brilliant 156-page guide features: 36 Chinese apps across 9 sectors; 62 graphs & charts; 45 recommendations for further reading; Based on 8 weeks research & 200+ references. It really does cover everything you need to know and more. The KAWO team has been kind enough to make this guide available for FREE - download here
NHL Praised for Efficient Return to Play Plan
The National Hockey League (NHL) has gained words of encouragement online and in local media following the announcement they will return to play and complete the Stanley Cup in a revised format. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Lanxiong Sports (Chinese) World Football Summit Announces Stellar Line-Up The virtual event set to take place July 6-9, recently announced renowned speakers from the global sports industry, including FIFA President Gianni Infantino, S4 Capital Executive chairman Martin Sorrell, La Liga President Javier Tebas, and many more. Learn more about the event here
Creative of the Week
LA Lakers Gather Support Messages A selection of key words and slogans sent in by Lakers fans on Weibo during the hiatus show messages of support for all their players, not just the star names. Check out the graphic here
Gaming Platforms Under Scrutiny for Advertising During COVID-19 Chinese live-streaming gaming platforms Huya and Douyu offered online education classes for free to teenage users as schools across the country during COVID-19. Both platforms are facing mounting criticism for placing excessive video game ads in close proximity to those online classes. Read more on Caixin (English) and Sina (Chinese)
Yu Hang, Executive Director at DDMC Fortis, is one of the veterans & pioneers of China’s sports and media industry. We spoke at length to Yu Hang to get his honest thoughts and insights from his time working in the industry. Watch the full interview here (English)
From The Top
Leo Lin, Co-CEO of TJ Sports, a Joint Venture established between Tencent & Riot Games
1. How did the esports industry in China cope during lockdown with no live esports events?
During the period where China was on lockdown with no live sport, the LPL Spring Season ticket sales were negatively affected when the LPL moved away from an offline league. However, as an esports league, the LPL was able to persist by transitioning to an online format. As a result, many major brands saw the adaptability and potential of the esports industry, which resulted in the LPL establishing more sponsorship partners during this epidemic.
2. What have been the biggest growth areas for esports in recent years?
Within China, the biggest areas of growth are seen in terms of public recognition. Esports has evolved from a new concept into a sports league that the public loves to discuss and an industry that is supported by many local governments.
In addition, the commercialization of esports has also developed rapidly and is still continuously growing. For example, esports league sponsors have evolved from the initial 3C brands to major automotive, fashion, retail, and finance brands.
3. What is it about China which makes esports such a popular sport in the country?
Esports’ current popularity in China is the fruit of the hard work and the perseverance of esports players and employees over the past ten years. The original esports fans in China were core gamers. However, like traditional sports leagues, esports began to attract fans from various backgrounds due to the passion and spirit of competition. At the same time, more and more games began to enter the esports industry, making esports a norm within the market.
4. How much did the retirement of 'Uzi' at 23 hurt the brand image of esports?
The retirement of Uzi won't damage the brand image of esports. First of all, Uzi's retirement became a major topic of discussion in various social media channels, which showed just how popular esports has become. This event also showed the public the hard work players put into competing in esports and encouraged us to pay more attention to the health of professional players.
With LPL franchising, we are continuously creating better systems to develop more skilled talents while helping them stay healthy. Ultimately, we expect each generation to move forward to have continually more exciting players to follow.
5. What are the most significant opportunities and what are the biggest challenges facing the esports industry in the next five years?
Within China, more and more municipal governments are starting to support the esports industry. Esports is also rapidly becoming a norm within the public. The biggest challenge moving forward is to continue this rapid development of the esports industry while maintaining professionalism and integrity.
This week we look at the most followed Badminton Players on Weibo on Weibo.
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