The biggest football stars from Europe are in the middle of the continent’s largest tournament. Yet EURO 2016 has yet to reach the same level of exposure online in China experienced by the 2014 World Cup.
Since the 2014 World Cup, China’s sports broadcasting landscape has dramatically changed with the value of IPTV deals surpassing traditional TV rights for the first time ever. However, CCTV has exclusive rights for TV and online broadcasting, and decided against sub-licensing to any of the online players. This means that fans are only able to view through traditional methods. LeTV, who have the Hong Kong broadcast rights, have however signed deals with 5 top European teams (Germany, England, France, Italy and Spain) for access to the their training bases and match venues, enhancing their production capabilities around the tournament.
The interest around the 2014 World Cup was predominantly driven by the huge coverage from China’s most popular social networks, Sina Weibo and WeChat. This is something that has failed to materialise for this year’s EUROs.
In 2014, Sina Weibo encouraged fans to show their allegiance to their national team by adding their flag to their Weibo handle. With over 1.96 million fans choosing Germany, this was a hugely successful digital initiative.
WeChat launched a World Cup Lottery platform through their WeChat Pay function, where fans could bet up to $60 on which team will win each match. During this period, China’s match-betting ‘lottery’ sales increased by 384.3% year on year to RMB9.62 billion. With this sum of money being gambled on the match outcomes, it’s easy to see why the World Cup attracted so many casual fans to watch each match.
One of the biggest challenge to the EUROs this year is the fact that the Olympics are just around the corner. China will be competing on the world’s largest sporting stage, with the country’s media preparing to leverage Chinese nationals extreme level of patriotism. Coupled with the fact that the NBA Finals reached game 7 in an extremely tense fashion, the EUROs have falling in the middle of the two biggest sporting events of the year. ;
From a social perspective, EURO 2016 were late to launch online. The tournament took over ownership of the UEFA Champions League Weibo account (China’s version of Twitter) that had been inactive for an extended period. And despite reaching 2+ million followers, the level of engagement has been relatively low. However, a Chinese website beginning of June was launched to provide the latest highlights and online coverage.
Weibo and WeChat’s decision to not launch any social initiative has ultimately limited the online virality of this tournament. Let’s wait and see what they have planned for the Olympics.