• Denis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 20th November


Hello Industry Friends,


Welcome to the latest edition of the China Sports Business Weekly.

A reminder that submissions for the Red Card 2021: China Digital Football Awards close in just 10 days. Find out more about the awards and how to apply here.


Making headlines this week: WSC Sports partners with Tencent on video production solutions, Cristiano Ronaldo launches on Kuaishou and hits 5M+ followers in 24 hours, Chinese Super League enforces salary cap, PP Sports and Huawei agree content partnership, Tencent commits $30M for Peacekeeper Elite League, Baidu purchases live streaming platform, and the World Football Summit launches next week.


In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Eric Geng, Senior Director at China Sports Media. We discussed COVID-19’s effect on the digital broadcast media rights market in China, how rights holders should react, the changes in Chinese sports fans' consumption habits, advice for international rights holders, and what he’s looking for in submissions for the Red Card 2021.


Top Industry News


1) WSC Sports Enters China with Three Year Tencent Partnership

The partnership aims to speed up the development of new video production solutions for the Chinese market. WSC Sports will also provide Tencent Sports (and other Tencent divisions) with its automatic video solutions for content distribution through Tencent’s digital platforms, such as website, apps and social media channels. Tencent will then be able to distribute automated and personalised sports content at scale for its major properties such as the NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB and EPL. Read more on SVG (English) and China Daily (Chinese)

2) Cristiano Ronaldo Partners with Kuaishou, Hits 5M+ Followers in 24 Hours

This record-breaking launch gives the Tencent-backed app an even stronger positioning in a highly competitive short form video space. As part of the partnership, Kuaishou becomes Ronaldo’s ‘exclusive short form Chinese video partner’ in China. Read more on SportBusiness (English) China News (Chinese)


Mailman Take: Kuaishou means business. Tie-ups with NBA, pop singer Jay Chou, and now CR7 to name a few, along with an average of 300M Daily Active Users (DAUs), proves the platform is quickly making up ground on Douyin (600M DAUs). Those organisations looking to be an early mover to this platform could reap the rewards, while those who wait for the 'next big thing' may face hard yards to catch up in this sector.


3) Chinese Super League Hit with Salary Cap

Chinese Football Association (CFA) president Chen Xuyuan will introduce stricter measures to further reduce players' salaries and safeguard China's football leagues. In January, the CFA announced the introduction of a salary cap of $3.3M per year for overseas players, while Chinese players were limited to $1.4M. "The leagues can only operate well under reasonable financial conditions, and I am certain that we will work out measures by the end of this year to further curb spending and reduce the players' pay. To maintain the health of the Chinese football leagues is a task I mentioned many times after I came to work in the CFA, as I don't think our leagues are sustainable" Chen said. Read more on Xinhua (English) and Tencent (Chinese)


4) MLB Delivers Baseball Carnival at the 2020 BoAo Culture and Creativity Week

The premier North American baseball league delivered a series of baseball-themed activities during the festival. These included MLB First Pitch Clinic baseball classes. Read more on China Daily (English) and Huanqiu (Chinese)


5) PP Sports and Huawei Video Sign Partnership

PP Sports and Huawei Video announced their official partnership in different fields across the supply chain, including technology and content sharing, sports content development, and sporting hardware. According to the partnership, content on PP Sports will be available on the Huawei Video App in the “PP Sports Zone”. Both parties will share their membership rights, meaning users can access PP Sports content on Huawei with membership to either platform. Read more on Xinhua (Chinese)


6) WTT Macau to Present New Vision of Table Tennis

As part of World Table Tennis’ launch event, the unveiling of a brand-new court design, colour scheme, and broadcast innovations will be on show. The playing format, scoring system and refreshed prize money structure will be showcased by many of the sport’s biggest stars. Read more on ITTF (English) and Sina Sports (Chinese)


Esports News


Tencent to Invest $30M into Peacekeeper Elite League in 2021

The Peacekeeper Elite League PEL is the highest professional league for Peacekeeper Elite (also known as Game for Peace), which is the Chinese version of PUBG Mobile. Tencent made a separate game for China as per the country’s strict regulatory laws. The Peace Elite League also partnered with global sports organisation the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in July. Read more on Pandaily (English) and The Esports Observer (Chinese)


In Other News


Baidu Set to Purchase YY for $3.6B, Enters Live Streaming Market

This deal marks Baidu’s biggest move yet into live streaming, which will see the company pay approximately $3.6B in cash for Joyy’s YY Live. Baidu announced the deal following revenue from the September quarter that beat analysts’ estimates. Acquiring Joyy’s YY streaming network gives Baidu control of a $1.8B business with 4M paying users who tend to purchase virtual gifts to tip their favourite performers. Joyy will keep control of its other video and streaming platforms for users outside of China. Read more on Bloomberg (English) and Ifeng (Chinese)


McDonald's Eyes Investment in Chinese Coffee Market

The company’s coffee brand McCafé announced a plan to invest $381M in its coffee market in China in the next three years. The investment will focus on opening new coffee shops inside McDonald's restaurants, upgrading equipment and providing professional training. By 2023, the company expects to run more than 4,000 McCafé outlets on the Chinese mainland. Read more on Xinhua (English) and STCN (Chinese)

Event News


World Football Summit

Next week, from November 23-27, the second edition of World Football Summit (WFS) Live, will bring the football industry’s most influential community together. This summit aims to share experiences and lessons learned during the restart of competitions, pool strategies for the crucial times to come and explore new paths for the industry to continue moving forward in the so-called new normality.


Mailman in Asia


A flavour of what we've been up to across Asia this week.


Harry Kane’s 150

We worked with a renowned illustrator based in Indonesia on a local graphic to celebrate Harry Kane’s 150th goal for Tottenham Hotspur.


Chelsea’s Father’s Day Celebration

In Indonesia, we did a nationwide Father’s Day celebration which captured the emotions of fans. Chelsea fans reminisced how they became a fan thanks to their father.


From The Top


Eric Geng, Senior Director, China Sports Media.


1. The digital broadcast media rights market has been heavily affected by COVID-19, globally. In China, what do you predict will happen in terms of a change in strategy from rights holders in the coming months and years?


In light of the renegotiation of many rights and corrections of media rights value in the past several months, rights holders will be more realistic about the market in China. Most rights holders will recognise it is a market that you need to think and invest in the long term rather than eyeing easy and quick money.


In terms of media rights sales, I believe more rights holders will accept revenue-sharing deals, and share risks with broadcasters together. In addition, non-exclusive deals would be the norm for many sports. In terms of operations, rights holders need to invest in and build their products with broadcast partners, but not sit back and purely rely on broadcasters.


2. How have you seen Chinese sports fans' consumption habits change over the years with the growth of more short-form video platforms and non-live content? Do you see this trend continuing?


Short video platforms such as Douyin and Kuaishou provide Chinese users, including sports fans, with very special and interesting content. Short-form videos are even competing with live broadcasting for fans’ time. Sports documentaries, for example ‘The Last Dance’ and ‘All or Nothing’, also proved to be very popular in China. Given short-video platforms are increasing their investment in sport, I think these formats of content will be more popular.


3. What advice do you have for international rights holders looking to renew existing deals or land new ones in China? How should they now approach China, following everything that's happened this year?


Firstly, they should have a long-term strategy. China is a big market for most international rights holders, who can benefit for many years by thinking in the long run. Secondly, they need to be close to the market, by opening local offices and collaborating with local companies or experts. The market is very special and changes rapidly. We saw some federations/leagues benefit from the closeness to Chinese market but also witnessed some suffer painfully due to the distance and negligence. Thirdly, start early during this hard period. It is true that the rights fees are decreasing significantly. However, you can still generate decent revenue when you do the right thing.


4. Other than from media rights, which revenue areas do you see international sports organisations building from and how?


Sponsorship is definitely one area. We can see Chinese brands are sponsoring top events such as FIFA World Cup, Olympic Games, UEFA competitions, etc. Also, many Chinese companies are using sports sponsorship as a tool to open their targeted foreign markets.


5. You're a returning judge this year for Mailman's 2021 Red Card Awards. What do you hope to see in submissions this year to really impress you?

COVID-19 changes our lives and in particular the sports industry. I hope to see more technologies, ideas and products that improve sports fan’s online experiences.


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