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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 23rd August

Here are the top China sports business news stories you need to know from this week. In this edition, my From the Top interview is with Zhao Jun, CEO of China Sports Media, where we discuss the partnership extension between CSM and the CFA, the impact 5G will have for fans, and how Chinese football is growing its reputation around the world.

Chinese Football Association Extends Partnership with China Sports Media The China Sports Media (CSM) agency has extended its exclusive broadcast production and distribution agreement with the Chinese Football Association (CFA) for four more years until 2023. The renewal includes rights to the Team China series, the games featuring the men’s and women’s national teams, along with age-grade teams and the men’s and women’s 5-a-side teams. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and (Chinese) 

Mailman Take: All eyes will be on CSM’s coverage of the men’s national team in China and abroad after the announcement that Brazilian-born striker Elkeson is eligible to play for China as part of FIFA's residency rules. He’s been named in the squad for next month's World Cup qualifier against the Maldives. Social commentary is currently divided regarding this decision, however, if he can have a positive impact and help China reach the World Cup, the online negativity will likely disappear. 

iQiyi Sports to Broadcast All 380 LaLiga Matches This Season The joint venture between iQiyi and Super Sports Media will exclusively livestream all 380 matches of the 2019/20 LaLiga season on iQiyi Sports platforms. iQiyi Sports will also produce and release original content on match information, match highlights and behind-the-scenes footage throughout the entire season. Read more on PRnewswire (English) and Sohu Chinese)  

Mailman Take: iQiyi Sports will have been delighted to see China’s most famous current male footballer Wu Lei, move from Shanghai to Espanyol in LaLiga. The top-tier of Spanish football is the only key domestic European football property which doesn’t belong exclusively to PP Sports. The recent relationship troubles between Suning and Alibaba spells good news for iQiyi Sports, who were in potential danger of being ousted from the market, had the two giants collaborated together on a digital sports platform. 

MLB to Collaborate with Chinese Baseball League Major League Baseball (MLB) will work together with the Chinese Baseball Association (CBA) to help relaunch the often dormant China National Baseball League (CNBL). China’s top domestic baseball competition has struggled since its inception in 2002, and was suspended in 2012 and 2017 due to a lack of funding and exposure. Read more on SportsPro (English) and CNBL (Chinese) 

Juventus Opens Hong Kong Branch The Italian Serie A champions are looking to strengthen their presence across APAC with the opening of a Hong Kong branch, which will be located in the central part of the metropolitan area of the city. The office will be led by Federico Palomba, Managing Director of the Hong Kong branch. Read more on Juventus English & Chinese

Beijing 2022 Signs EF Education First as Language Supplier Education company EF has signed up as the first official exclusive supplier for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing. EF will serve as the official language training services supplier of Beijing 2022. Read more on Beijing2022 (English) and Sina (Chinese)

Wu Lei Becomes Ambassador of AIA RCD Espanyol and China Men’s National Team striker Wu Lei, has become a charity ambassador for the AIA China Youth Football Development Project. The incentive aims to enhance and develop China’s love for football. Read more on AIA Weibo (Chinese)

In Other News

Juventus’ J-Squad Reaches 50m Videos Views During Asia Tour An official Juventus Football Club fan movement across Asia, named the J-Squad, included the recruitment of an initial 20 members producing content on their own social channels, as well as for the club’s official channels, based around the Asia tour. The J-Squad played an integral part in helping the club reach a total of 50m video views and 790k engagements throughout the club’s Asia Summer Tour. Read more on SportBusiness (English) 

Mailman Take: The growing power and influence of KOLs have given football clubs the opportunity to place more responsibility in the hands of their fans. Juventus spent a lot of time identifying the right profiles to represent the club across a region of increasing importance, Asia. The figures alone show the Asia-wide fan movement was a worthwhile initiative and it will be interesting to see how their ‘J-Squad’ will grow in the future.


From the Top

This week I spoke to Zhao Jun, CEO of China Sports Media, who gave some insightful updates about CSM’s partnership extension with the CFA, how the introduction of 5G will benefit football fans, and the growing reputation that Chinese football is gaining across the world.

1. How important is it for China Sports Media to continue its long-term partnership with the CFA? CSM and the CFA have established long-standing ties and both companies share a common goal of healthy and stable growth for Chinese football. CSM has been heavily involved in Chinese football and became a leading force alongside the CFA. The extension of the partnership is based on the close and fruitful partnership that we have developed over the past few years.

Team China has been an integral part of CSM’s business portfolio. With a contract to market the domestic and international rights of the Chinese Super League until 2025, and holding rights in China to AFC competitions until 2020, CSM holds all major Chinese football marketing properties. The partnership highlights CFA’s faith and CSM’s capabilities in media rights, world feed production and marketing. It also gives CSM more opportunities to really make the most of these capabilities.

Also, an extended partnership not only benefits CSM’s internal operations, but also the stable and sustainable growth of the Chinese football industry. The promising environment for Chinese football provides more opportunities in the next cycle, such as competing for World Cup qualification, bidding for the World Cup and hosting the Asian Cup.

2. How will 5G change the way football fans experience the sport, both in the stadium and on TV? This year, 5G is going to bring a big technological shift. With speeds up to 10x times faster than 4G networks, and with less lag, it will transform viewing both in stadiums and at home through the introduction of augmented and virtual reality experiences. For most fans, the benefits of 5G are likely to be mainly felt during live sports fixtures.

VR and 5G offerings, along with a 4K signal production, were put in place at a CSL game between Shanghai SIPG FC and Shandong Luneng FC in May, as well as a few Team China home friendlies - the first live football games in China to be broadcast this way.

Audiences unable to attend live events could still get a front-row seat experience with the help of 5G. 4K, high-definition content will be seamlessly streamed to a broad range of devices, from mobile phones to VR headsets. 5G also enables broadcasters to deploy more cameras in an arena, including drones, offering a wide range of camera angles and guaranteed high-quality pictures.

5G will definitely transform the fan experience at all sporting events. Chinese football will further enhance its reputation as the most popular sport in China. CSM has always been at the forefront of technological innovation and dedicated to introducing state-of-the-art technologies to football production.

3. What other new technologies or strategies can we expect to see as part of this partnership moving forward? CSM will continue to improve the use of exciting technologies such as Dolby Atmos and Virtual Reality, and will continue to explore 5G to innovate in a range of new immersive and more personalised ways for sports fans.

In terms of marketing, CSM will seize the chance to attract more sponsorship sales and to provide tailored solutions and activation plans for brands who want to know more about the sports and football industries.

4. Outside of China, how big is the appetite for watching Chinese football, and how does China Sports Media help to grow the marketability of Chinese football internationally? With growing political and cultural influence, Chinese football is now a major player within football - on an international scale. Businessmen were encouraged to invest billions into Chinese football. As the cash came, so did the foreign talent - and naturally, some global attention too. A few footballers have even given up their passports to become naturalized Chinese citizens.

At the start of this year, CSM assumed the distribution of international rights to the domestic CFA Cup and CFA Super Cup. Thanks to CSM’s efforts, the CSL now enjoys distribution in 96 countries and regions across the globe. 


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Mailman is a global sports digital agency and marketing platform. We help global rights holders, athletes and brands build a successful business across China, Europe, and Southeast Asia. Learn more about our story here.

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