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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

LETV Buys TV rights for the Scottish Premier League: What Can Chinese Viewers Expect?

Updated: Jun 7, 2019

In a landmark deal, the Scottish Professional Football League have agreed a deal to broadcast live football on mainstream TV in China. The deal, which is thought to be worth around £500,000 (5 million RMB) for an initial three years, will show 55 games over the course of the season. Matches will be streamed live across a variety of formats, with LETV as the sole providers. The addition of mobile and online services make it widely accessible for viewers, offering the Scottish Premier League (SPL) greater exposure.

LETV has a staggering 400 million monthly users, and such publicity can only be beneficial for the popularity of the SPL. Since the broadcasting of the Bundesliga in China in the mid-1990s, its fan base has skyrocketed, and it’s reasonable to assert that the SPL could follow the same trajectory. German clubs now have a combined following of 9.2 million on Weibo and three matches each week are available exclusively to CCTV-5.

In a statement by SPFL chief executive Neil Doncaster, he seemed rightly excited by this opportunity. “Clearly, this is a massive market and gives our member clubs a great opportunity to sell themselves to the world’s fastest growing economy”. Whilst this is true, it is down to the clubs themselves to endear themselves to a new Chinese following. If they can do this, and play football that captivates the fans, then the sky’s the limit.

What does the SPL offer?

Having talked to the supporters of Liverpool and AC Milan, it is clear that Chinese football fans love history. The Scottish Football League was established in 1890 and has a long and rich history, one of its unique selling points. Both Celtic and Rangers have a long and successful history in European Football with 8 European Finals appearances between them, and 3 victories. A presence among Europe’s top clubs is vital if Scottish clubs are to associate themselves with the best.

Fantastic rivalries have also been born from this historic league. The prominent of these is undoubtedly the Old Firm derby between Celtic and Rangers. Indeed it is one of the most well-known around the world and was even voted as the biggest derby in European football, ahead of the Manchester, Madrid, and north-London derbies.

Potential Pitfalls?

One of the biggest criticisms that fans have with the Bundesliga is Bayern’s eternal superiority. Even supporters of the German champions wish that there was more competition and the depth of competition is one of the huge attractions of the Barclays Premier League. Between them, Celtic and Rangers have won 100 of 119 seasons, and whilst Chinese fans love to support the winning team, this sort of dominance does not appeal to the vast majority. Furthermore, with Rangers trying to force their way back into the top-flight after their financial difficulties, fans won’t even have this rivalry to enjoy.

Goals, or rather a relative lack of them, could also endanger the SPL’s potential popularity. Whilst the Bundesliga streaks ahead with a massive 2.96 goals per game over the last two seasons, the SPL has seen only 2.63 in the same time frame.

The SPL is different

There are only 12 teams in the SPL, and because of this the league has a unique setup. The teams play each other three times before splitting into two sections of six, in order to try and balance the number of home and away fixtures. A completely different format to that of any other top league, it might be a feature that appeals to Chinese fans. One of the positives of this arrangement is that the aforementioned derbies occur more frequently than they might do in other leagues.

How will they do it?

Visiting China is something the fans yearn for. Not only does it allow many supporters the rare opportunity to see their team in action, but its social media benefits are huge. European giants Bayern Munich and AC Milan are currently touring China and have seen their Weibo followers increase by 57,910 and 27,443 respectively in the past fortnight.

It will be intriguing to see the number of Chinese viewers initially attracted to the SPL. This deal is revolutionary for Scottish football and marks the beginning of an exciting era in which fan growth should expand. Celtic already have an official Weibo account with more followers than Everton, and one should only expect these numbers to increase over the coming months as the new season gets underway. By posting regularly (69 times in the past month), Celtic are working hard to maintain a relationship between the club and their Asian fans. The introduction of this TV deal will only aid them in harnessing a wider fanbase.

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