2015 has turned out to be a prominent and fruitful year for the revolutionary Chinese online sports streaming company, Le Sports. The Chinese OTT company has announced itself in the Chinese media business by making a series of bold and aggressive moves in the past year.
In 2015, Le Sports successfully raised 800 million yuan though A and A+ rounds of fund raising, brought the first International Champions Cup to China, launched a sports industry fund worth up to 5 billion yuan and won the title sponsorship for China’s iconic multi-functional stadium, the Wukesong Arena.
At the beginning of this year, Le Sports and Major League Baseball jointly announced a wide-ranging partnership. China’s top internet-based eco-sports company became an official strategic partner of MLB in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau, for a three-year period beginning in January of 2016.
As part of the first mass market MLB media agreement in China, Le Sports will hold exclusive media rights in China to broadcast 125 MLB games per season, along with Mandarin-language MLB programming, through its internet platform, mobile applications, and OTT Devices.
The partnership with MLB is the latest significant achievement of Le Sports and is in addition to other exclusive deals, including Wimbledon from 2016-2018, the English Premier League in Hong Kong from 2016-2019 and the five-year global partnership with ATP.
However, we have to admit that baseball is still a niche sport in China and the commercial development of the sport in China is still at the preliminary stage. But that is not to suggest that baseball will stay out of the market.
Back in 2003, MBL signed a cooperation deal with the Chinese Baseball Association. The US sports league opened its first office in China in 2007 and since then, three MLB Development Centers (MLB DC) have been launched in Wuxi, Changzhou and Nanjing. Itchy Xu, an MLB DC student-athlete, was signed by Baltimore Orioles in July of 2015. Liwei Huang and Aaron Chen (both MLB DC student-athletes) have participated in the China National Baseball Team training.
Now the MLB Play Ball Program covers nearly 100 elementary schools in five cities in China. In the last nine years, more than 600,000 elementary school students were exposed to baseball through this program; the MLB College Club has 82 members among universities across China. The MLB Beijing League and the MLB Shanghai League have been held every spring since 2012. The MLB Baseball Park road show travels to major Chinese metropolitan areas every year and attracts more than 3.5 million participants annually.
The renewed and expanded partnership with MLB is built on their previous relationship from 2014 and 2015 when the two sides launched MLB Perfect Pitch reality shows, which attracted more than 200,000 participants and millions of viewers on Letv.
In the next three years, apart from the live broadcasting of MLB games across LeTV’s own platforms, the Chinese company will also focus on online development for the US league. Le Sports has made its commitment to build online communities for MLB fans and to provide MLB licensed merchandise for Chinese fans.
The partnership is just a trial for how Le Sports and American sports can work together to make a difference. We believe that 2016 will again be a big year for Le Sports.
Proofread by John Devlin