In 2015, Tencent purchased the rights to show NBA content in China. The deal cost them $500 million over 5 years. The result of this deal was a subscription package that cost consumers 298 RMB per year to view all games. Free content was limited to only a couple of games per week. Tencent says that they serviced 20 billion viewers, free and subscribed, over the course of last season.
This year saw the rights deal restructured slightly allowing Tencent to acquire the rights to the full league pass package on a rolling $50 million a year contract for 4 years. This new deal has lead to a change in the subscription model. The all inclusive package still exists but now costs 698 RMB (~103 USD) per year, however, there are also two other options available: 3 months for 258 RMB (~38 USD) or 1 month for 88 RMB (~13 USD). Tencent has also introduced a ‘one team only’ deal costing 318 RMB (~47 USD) for the season. This allows the subscriber to watch all of the available content relating to the team of their choice.
Additionally, all of Tencent’s NCAA basketball and NHL coverage is also available on demand throughout the app. But the best part? Both year long options come with a free shirt, again of the subscribers choosing. All subscriptions include both the regular season and the playoffs.
Benefits gained by paying subscribers include no commercials, choice of commentary (English vs Chinese). All games can be streamed in 1080p HD and with only a 1.5-second delay.
How do the numbers add up? Well, if you were to watch the whole season on each of the three plans unsurprisingly you would pay more with both of the short-term subscriptions. However, due to the NBA season being just under 8 months long, the monthly subscription works out 70 RMB cheaper. So if you’re the sort to try it at the start and see how it goes only to get addicted and need to watch all of the games, make sure you change from the 3-month plan before the third payment comes.
What It Means
In comparison to the 2015/16 season, the payment model from Tencent is now considerably more flexible and allows a degree of personalisation for those with different interests and needs. The 3-month option is likely to attract those viewers who only follow the NBA towards the finale of the season. At only 48 RMB, it is likely that Tencent will gain lots of subscribers for individual games or series as they develop or appeal to individuals. This will be more prevalent towards the end of the season as more is riding on games but will also depend on how Tencent select the games to show for free. The less high profile games they show the more confident they are that they’ll people to the short subscription, the development of this aspect will be interesting to monitor.
The addition of the team only subscription is also very likely to be a hit with large numbers of fans. If this deal was offered to American fans doubtless they’d snatch it and not look back. With the sheer volume of games that make up an NBA season this package makes a lot of sense. It should gain a lot of subscribers before the start of the season which is exactly what those at Tencent will be hoping for. The additional ability to watch the full game, ad-free and with a choice of commentary at a users time of choice makes this plan fit around just about any fans schedule.
So two years into paid subscriptions for sports content and a lot has changed. A lot of the differences that have been included by Tencent are a reaction to the features offered by SuperSport with their package for the 2016/17 Premier League season. In terms of how the plans will change for next season, it will depend heavily on how the viewing and subscription numbers react to this set of changes. We should expect fewer changes in the next iteration of subscriptions, more refinement for the market as more data is gathered about their wants and habits.
If you’re interested in subscribing to the NBA coverage, download the Tencent NBA app or head over to the QQ sports NBA page and click on the VIP link in the top right corner.