As an example of a rising sports company originating from an internet enterprise, China’s Le Sports, a subsidiary of Letv, has been undoubtedly eye-catching in the sports market over the last year. Starting from sports-related video streaming services, the independent company has now acquired the media rights to over 200 major global sports events.
“We’ve proactively completed the analyses and made judgements on the sports market over the past year. (So) we’ve acquired a series of (sports) rights, at reasonable prices, in a reasonable way”, Le Sports’ CCO Liu Jianhong said to Yutang Sports in a recent exclusive interview.
As the market in China roars, Mr. Liu said they know exactly where the rising giant is heading for. “The rights we acquired in the beginning are advantageous for us because of their value in the long run.” It partly explains why Le Sports focus more on long-term deals for sport rights rather than those available for 1-2 years.
Accordingly, with the prospect of the rising Chinese sports industry growing at top speed in the near future, Le Sports has staked its hopes on long-term deals with rights holders to a variety of major global sport events.
However, pay-as-you-view, as seen by many, will still need to play a role going forward, as the sports industry in China is set to grow massively. In this regard, Le Sports, as a big buyer in sports rights, would love to see the model gain more popularity in China.
In fairness, Hong Kong holds a safe lead over Mainland China in pay TV. Speaking about the deal for the rights to English Premier League in Hong Kong, Mr Liu said “Hong Kong has a far more mature pay-as-you-view market than Mainland China. (However), the HK model may possibly be adopted in that market soon. (Accordingly), those who are more experienced and better prepared will have the chance to achieve greater success.”
Besides the costly sports streaming services, Le Sports has also based their business model on other sectors which include sports events organization, smart equipment and online services. Seen as the last sector of Le Sports’ecology, Liu revealed the company will soon have something big to announce in online services.
Liu Jianhong, formerly a renowned sports commentator at CCTV and currently the CCO at Le Sports, is seen by many as more qualified than most to comment on the relationship between traditional TV and the rising new media.
“One advantage that a TV station holds is that they have a plentiful talent reserve and rich experience in production and match promotions through their efforts in the last few decades. On the other hand the new media is still in its infancy”, said Liu. However, online streaming has gained much faster growth than TV during the corresponding period. “To judge an industry, (we have) two indicators: where people are and where the money is”.
“The Chinese sports industry is still rich in uncultivated lands. One Le Sports is not enough, and even ten are not enough.” Taking the Chinese real estate industry as an example, Liu said as the result of a fast growing industry,we saw the emergence of real estate giants including Wanda, Vanke, Evergrande, Greenland etc. So it will be with the sports industry in China.
With their efforts to set up an RMB5bn sports fund, alongside the deal with Lagardere and partnerships with local governments, Le Sports has shown that the company eyes a more significant role in the Chinese Sports industry rather than being merely a big buyer of media rights to a variety of sports events.
Proofread by John Devlin.