Zhang Jindong, Chairman of Suning Group, is one of the many Chinese billionaires embracing the sports business as a response to the government’s push to turn the country into a sports powerhouse, expected to reach a value of 5 trillion yuan by 2025.
Zhang is widely known as a sports fan. “The sports business, which has incredible potential, is an abundant source for intellectual property, outstanding vehicle for user traffic and important base of our fan economy,”
“With the rise of spending in China, sports events, products and services have become a cornerstone for our future success.”
The Suning Chairman, who amassed his fortune in retail and e-commerce, has shown his ambitions for soccer by managing his local team, Jiangsu Suning, and the Italian club, Inter Milan.
In addition to this, Zhang is also endeavoring to create one of the leading sports broadcasters in China. Starting from May 2015, Zhang’s sports umbrella, Suning Sports, has acquired a series of exclusive media rights in football properties, including the Spanish La Liga, the English Premier League, the AFC Champions League and the Chinese Super League.
PPTV, the digital broadcasting platform of Suning Sports, has also made heavy investments to add the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League, the WWE, the UFC, the Dutch Eredivisie and the English FA Cup into its broadcasting portfolio.
Major soccer broadcast deals for Suning Sports
Chinese online broadcasters including PPTV, Tencent, and Super Sports have thrown themselves into the war over media rights of sports intellectual property.
However, Chinese viewers have been accustomed to free sports content, especially in the past few years, due to advertising models adopted by traditional broadcasters like CCTV5 as well as the side effects of illegal streaming platforms.
In fact, as the value of media rights have skyrocketed, from the Premier League to Major League Soccer to the Chinese Super League in recent years, traditional broadcasters in China are gradually losing their market share to their new media rivals.
As of now, online broadcasters have found a feasible way to combine advertising models and subscription based models to capitalize on the media rights in their possession. According to recent statistics, 80% of users on Super Sports, the current holder of the broadcasting rights for the English Premier League (EPL) in China, tend to pay for one-off games or single club matches.
In this regard, Tencent, the exclusive and official digital partner of the NBA in China, started to offer the NBA LEAGUE PASS service in 2015, providing fans with access to a full season of live and on-demand NBA games to stream online and via mobile devices. Specifically, if you pay 90 yuan each month, you would be able to watch all NBA matches including the regular season, playoffs and finals as well as the NCAA, NHL and FIBA tournaments.
Different from its rival, PPTV seems to place more emphasis on soccer. It offers some content for free to attract users while adopting the pay-per-view option for major events. For example, users have to pay to watch the Chinese derby between Guangzhou Evergrande and Shanghai SIPG on the evening of September 12th, which ended with Shanghai reaching their first AFC Champions League semi-final after winning in a penalty shootout 5-4.
Additionally, the Suning-backed video streaming service has been striving to set up a strong sports commentary team. On the evening of August 17th, Zhan Jun, a soccer commentator who has more than 10 million fans on Sina Weibo, decided to join his famous fellows Huang Jianxiang, Su Dong, Dong Lu and Lixin in PPTV’s commentary team, which has since made a splash in the Chinese soccer industry.
According to Chinese media reports, it was not difficult for Zhan to make the decision, as his former employer, LeSports, has been stuck in an ongoing debt crisis with its parent company LeEco. For Zhan, embracing PPTV means more opportunities to report top soccer leagues.
As the landscape of China’s sports content market evolves day by day, digital media platforms are likely to play an ever more important role in the near future. With a rich operating experience of soccer clubs, plenty of quality media rights and a powerful squad commentator, Suning Sports is looking to become one of the leading sports broadcasters in China.
Despite the eye-catching broadcasting deals in recent years, quality content delivered on convenient video streaming platforms is what Chinese users are really looking for. That is something which will pave the way for a suitable business model in the future for Suning Sports.
Proofread by William Logsdon