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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

How sports brands can tap in to China’s live streaming boom

Updated: May 30, 2019

China’s live stream market has exploded in the last 12 months. There are more than 200 live stream apps with over 300 million users. That’s the same amount as Twitter’s monthly active users. Sports organisations have recently begun to seize this opportunity and bring their live experience to fans in China.

Key Players

Despite the intense competition, there are a handful of live streaming apps that have become key players. Penguin, Tencent Sports trusted app, has already been used by Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga and the UFC to cover their offline events.

Yizhibo is the only app able to be embedded in the Sina Weibo newsfeed, similar to how Facebook Live and Periscope function on Facebook and Twitter. This gives the app an advantage in social reach, with Michael Phelps reaching 500,000 users after his final Olympic event.

Inke is the number one most downloaded live streaming app on the Chinese App Store, just below Alipay (China’s version of PayPal) and growing fast. Douyu, YY and Panda TV are some of the other top performing apps with large market share.

Sports Twist

However, not all of these are relevant to sports brands, with each focusing on a specific audience, including online gaming, celebrity KOLs and entertainment. Blair Zhang from Tencent Sports says that “In terms of sport live-streams, Penguin is the most developed platform at the moment. Most of the other platforms are associated with entertainment content outside of sport.”

The key question is how can sports brands engage with this opportunity. For the next two years at least, the majority of sports broadcasting rights have been locked in, therefore this is not an option for live streaming platforms.

Suggested Content

However, sports brands can look to content outside of match day to share live with the Chinese audiences. Blair Zhang says that “the best live stream content is exclusive interviews with famous players (including interaction with the Chinese audiences), internal training and content around the match.” Having a bi-lingual host on the ground is beneficial and can ensure positive interaction between the live content and Chinese fans.

We have already seen Chinese live stream platforms innovate and establish revenue streams. Chinese users can buy virtual money on the platform which is then sent as a gift to the live stream hosts. Typically, there’s a 70/30 split of all virtual money in favor of the platform, although sports brands with rich and consistent content will be able to negotiate their own.

Live Streaming and e-commerce

For sports brands that are focused on selling products, Tmall’s new live streaming platform connects content with purchase. Brands are able to live stream product launches, store tours and other content with the products available to purchase on the same screen. Brands can use this creative solution to reduce the barriers to purchase and break through China’s grey market for sports merchandise.

The Future

So far we’ve seen just a handful of sports organisations live streaming, with the majority around offline events when in this region. Sports brands must now take this habit back to the West where they can regularly utilise these platforms and bring the live experience to their fans in China.

For the upcoming broadcast cycles, we expect to see leagues and organisations carve out live streaming and secure additional revenue from this. This will result in a three tiered strategy including terrestrial TV, IPTV (PPTV, LeSports, Tencent Sports etc) and Live Streaming apps.

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