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  • Writer's pictureDenis Green

China Sports Business Weekly | 2nd September

Hello Industry Friends, here is the very latest news and insights from China. 📰 Headlines: Anta surpasses Nike in revenue for the first time ever, WTT lands a new sponsor and board member, Xiaohongshu to stream American Ultimate Disc League, Wu Yibing makes history at US Open, how China is nurturing a new generation of future UFC stars, All That Matters programme is revealed, and Tencent’s ‘Honor of Kings’ is world’s top-grossing mobile game. 🗣 In this week’s From The Top, we spoke with Marco Weber, CEO & Founder of Streamline Media, a media-tech company delivering global sports and entertainment IPs to Chinese audiences, about the journey of Streamline media, the company’s partnership with LaLiga, supporting grassroots football in China, and lessons learned from the industry.


🗞️ Top Industry News Anta Surpasses Nike in China for First Time on H1 Revenue The well-known sportswear company in China increased its overall revenue in the first half of the year by 13.8% to US$3.79B, higher than Nike China’s $3.7B in the same reporting period. Anta’s Chairman attributed the revenue growth to its strategy of “Single-Focus, Multi-Brand, Globalization.” Read more on Pandaily (English) and The Paper (Chinese) Agricultural Bank of China Sponsors WTT The deal will see the bank sponsor the 2022 World Team Table Tennis Championships, due to be held in Chengdu from September 30 to October 9, and other events in the country. The bank previously held the naming rights to the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals before the tour was rebranded. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and ECO Sports (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: All eyes will be on the upcoming championships in Chengdu, not only for the top-level table tennis, but also to see how a global sport event operates in zero-Covid China. Amid consistent flare-ups of Covid-19, particularly in Chengdu, the event is set to go ahead, much to the delight of the table tennis world.


Liu Guoliang Appointed as New WTT Board Member The International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) executive vice president Liu Guoliang has been appointed by the World Table Tennis (WTT) as a new board member. Liu, also the current WTT Council Chair, will use his unparalleled experience to further boost WTT in its mission to transform table tennis and grow the sport worldwide, the WTT said in a statement. Read more on China Daily (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) Xiaohongshu to Stream American Ultimate Disc League in China The popular Chinese social media & lifestyle platform has agreed to a media partnership with the AUDL which includes live streams of the league’s events. Xiaohongshu is seen as an important platform for this sport, given that it has been vital in the growth of ultimate frisbee in China over the last couple of years. Read more SportBusiness (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) Wu Yibing Becomes First Chinese Male to Win Grand Slam Match Since 1959 The 22-year-old became the first Chinese man in 63 years to win a singles match at a Grand Slam when he knocked 31st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili out of the US Open. Mei Fu Chi, at Wimbledon in 1959, was the last Chinese man to win a match in the majors. Read more on France24 (English) and The Paper (Chinese) 💡 Mailman Take: A huge moment for tennis in China. The country has been crying out for a successful male tennis player for decades, with female legends such as Li Na taking the spotlight. If Wu Yibing can defeat #1 ranked Medvedev in the next round, expect the internet in China to crash. Inter Lands Hisense Sponsorship and Regional HTH Deal The club’s agreement with the Italian division of Hisense will run until the 2024-25 season and makes the company an official partner of the club, whilst Chinese betting and sports entertainment brand HTH has come on as a regional partner in Asia. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and ECO Sports (Chinese) Nanjing World Athletics Indoor Championships Postponed Until 2025 Due to be held next March, the event has been shifted to 2025 as a result of “ongoing pandemic conditions” in China. It is the third time the federation’s flagship indoor event, which was awarded to Nanjing back in 2017, has been postponed after it was moved from 2020 to 2021 and then to 2023 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more on SportBusiness (English) and Xinhua (Chinese) The First Shanghai Virtual Sports Prepares to Kick Off The Shanghai Virtual Sports Open (SVS) has officially started registration. The first event will include five Virtual Sports: rowing, cycling, skiing, racing, and golf. Read more on ECO Sports (Chinese) The 2022 International Winter Sports Expo Opens in Beijing In the post-Winter Olympics era, the Winter Expo aims to promote the sustainable development of the ice-snow industry, improve communications between China and the world, and create more value for the global winter sports and the ice-snow industry. Read more on ECO Sports (Chinese)


🤔 Opinion How China Is Nurturing a New Generation of Future UFC Stars For China’s MMA fighters, signing with the UFC has become not only a goal, but a realistic ambition as the promotion expands its reach across Asia. The UFC has long viewed Asia-Pacific, and China above all — as a key growth market, and has been working to open up new pathways for talented fighters from the region. Now, those efforts are starting to make a visible impact on China’s MMA scene and the UFC itself. Mathew Scott explores more on Sixth Tone (English) Are Foreign Brands Dead in China? — Q&A with Mark Tanner How are Chinese consumers dealing with the slowing economy? Are foreign brands finished in China? Mark Tanner, the founder of China Skinny, explores more on The China Project (English) After Admitting To Mistakes In China, Can Adidas Make A Comeback? While many global companies blame store shutdowns for plummeting sales in China, Adidas admits its problems run deeper than COVID-19. In the second quarter, the German sportswear giant saw revenue drop 35 percent in the market, dragging operating profit down 28 percent and marking a fifth consecutive quarter of losses in the world’s second-largest economy. Read more on Jing Daily (English) Beijing Will Regulate “Digital Humans” in the Metaverse and Beyond China's capital is looking to set standards for digital assistants, virtual influencers, and gaming avatars. Read more on Rest of World (English)


🎮 Esports Tencent’s ‘Honor of Kings’ Reigns as World’s Top-Grossing Mobile Game Earnings, which totaled US$225.8M in July, mostly came from the Chinese mainland (94.6%). Following the publication of the report, a hashtag related to the game’s astronomical revenue went viral on Weibo, and has been viewed over 200M times. Chinese netizens have expressed their feelings of pride over the success of a made-in-China video game. Read more on Radii (English)


🎫 Events All That Matters Programme is UNMASKED! The well-known industry event kicks off in less than 30 days. With no less than SIX tracks, three academies, multiple networking events and live music every night, the largest ATM ever kicks off the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix week on 26-28 September. The All That Matters team is shifting gears to bring the global Music, Sports, Gaming, Marketing and Online entertainment industries together with their new Web3, Decentralised, Blockchain and NFT friends. Read more on All That Matters (English)


🎙️ From The Top 🗣 Marco Weber, CEO & Founder of Streamline Media 1. Can you talk about yourself and the company, how you started and what is the company’s mission? Before founding Streamline Media, I worked mainly as a producer in the film industry since the 1990s. I chose to go to Los Angeles when I was 25 years old to pursue my career and founded Atlantic Streamline - a film production company, in 1998. That is also the time when Roland Emmerich and I produced a science fiction neo-noir film, "The Thirteenth Floor." The impact of "The Thirteenth Floor" has been significant throughout my career. It has also become the name of my other company, which focuses on the Metaverse. I have a massive passion for technological advancement in content production. Roland and I dived into virtual reality by launching the VR company Vrenetic in 2016. However, it did not progress as expected in the highly competitive VR market. But it lays the technical foundation for the recent launch of LaLiga+. Early in my career, film was the testing ground for me to exploit the possibilities that technology could offer. But today, I want to expand my horizon and push for new frontiers. As a result, sports have become my new focus, and China has become my next stop. Streamline Media focuses entirely on the Chinese market with the intention to utilise my international network to bring world-class IPs and brands from the sports and entertainment sector to Chinese audiences, using its own technologies for an innovative and disruptive distribution model via brand-dedicated applications. With the support of strong local partners, the two companies, "Streamline Media" and "13th Floor Meta," are at the forefront of setting new standards in the streaming and metaverse landscape. The two companies also see their mandate in exporting Chinese IPs and culture to international audiences by utilising their global network of distribution channels.


2. You recently partnered with LaLiga. Can you explain this partnership, how it works, and what more we can expect from the partnership in the future? Streamline Media's partnership with LaLiga happened in the right place at the right time. Purchasing intellectual property rights is not our direction. Instead, we have agreed that LaLiga, as a professional sports league, would provide quality content while Streamline Media is responsible for the operation, production, technical support, and streaming media. By eliminating the high cost of copyright acquisition in the "traditional model," we put our investment in live streaming, technology, product development, and user experience. Our common goal is to develop LaLiga+ as an exclusive streaming home for its audience. There will be a direct-to-consumer experience featuring LaLiga's live games, original feature programs, films, documentaries, short-form content, competition info, news, statistics, social networking, and more.


3. Connecting international IPs with grassroots sports in China is a key focus for Streamline. How do you plan to achieve this and what are the biggest barriers? Engaging young people is essential for audience development in soccer, and we are trying to provide a better viewing experience for the younger generation through technology development. In the future, the LaLiga+ app will not only show the matches of LaLiga Santander and SmartBank but also become a media exposure platform for grassroots soccer and youth training. In order to achieve this, technology is indispensable. Streamline has assembled a sizable technology and software development team. I strongly believed that an international perspective coupled with a localized team in China would ensure Streamline Media deeply understand the content preferences and needs of Chinese fans. 4. The past decade has been a roller coaster for digital broadcast platforms and rights holders in China. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned from watching this industry rise and fall? In the past, the price of major sports rights has increased rapidly in China. However, Chinese fans' volume and consumer demand have not kept up. After several rounds of impact from the pandemic, and now is the time to reconstruct the market. Currently, the primary revenue of major streaming platforms in China is still based on subscription fees. However, this model has proven to be " impractical" in China. So this is not the direction that Streamline Media would take. Instead, we will make the platform grow sustainably in the long run. This is what we have been trying to solve. Also, the value of the broadcasting rights of major leagues in China has slumped due to the rapid development of social media platforms and the emergence of streaming media. Therefore, rights owners with strong direct-to-consumer channels would have significant advantages in controlling the entire branding experience. Streamline Media's vision for "LaLiga+" is to make it the home of LaLiga original content and create a community for the league. Our goal is to replicate this for multiple other brands, allowing our ecosystems to continuously grow and expand as we venture into different sports.


Mailman is China’s leading sports digital agency. We exist at the intersection of digital & sports. We help top sports organisations & brands to build sustainable businesses in China, one of the world's most challenging markets. Mailman is part of the Endeavor network. Learn more about our story here.

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