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Why FIFA granted media rights to China’s CCTV network till 2022

By Chen Yaping 03 Nov 2017

In the football market, the FIFA World Cup undoubtedly has become one of the most influential events for sports broadcasters, especially in China. According to the latest news, the China Central Television (CCTV) network has extended a deal with FIFA, which has been running since the 1978 World Cup, acquiring exclusive media rights in China for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, along with all other major international competitions under the world’s football governing body.

So, the questions is why FIFA chooses CCTV, a typical television broadcaster, in a market where new media has seen rapid growth recently. Well, I believe that putting aside the policy factors, there may be 4 reasons in the commercial aspect.

First, TV broadcasters are still the first choice for rights holders of major sports events.

When we look at the industry, especially in China, TV broadcasters have inherent advantages in growing viewership, brand exposure, commercial ads and sponsorship, tickets and merchandise sales. Therefore, it is common for TV media to broadcast international events including the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the NBA and European football tournaments.

As shown in an official report from 2014, CCTV, with 670 million daily viewers, delivered its content to 1.3 billion Chinese people all year round, while its sports channel, CCTV-5, gained a 67.93% audience reach in the world’s most populous country. Also in the first half of 2013-2017, the Chinese central channels took the lead in market share, according to the CSM Media Research, a TV and radio audience measurement institute.

Second, television networks are still the major platform for commercial promotions.

Although brands have taken digital ads as an important part of their commercial budget, they still see television networks as a major platform for commercial strategy. Some companies, tired of the opacity of the information and undesirable return on investment (ROI), are even considering cutting their digital expenditures.

As Marcos de Quinto, former Coca-Cola global chief marketing officer, said in 2016, TV is still “very, very critical for our business…TV still offers the best ROI across media channels.” He also said that Coke’s brand investment returns $2.13 for every dollar spent on TV, far more impressive than its $1.26 return from digital.

In October, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, referring to the first ever television deal negotiated by the former commissioner David Stern and CCTV in 1987, told Yutang Sports that, it is the close partnership that brings NBA games to “the home of Chinese people.” 

Third, Chinese people prefer to watch major events through TV channels. 

In recent years, digital platforms, including LeSports (now stuck in the financial crisis of its parent company, LeEco), PP Sports and Tencent Sports, have been making efforts to introduce the pay-per-view model in China. Despite the difficulties, some of them have grabbed a considerable market share from their traditional rivals.

However, the model will not be fully accepted overnight. Chinese sports viewers, whether they are enthusiast fans or not, have been accustomed to free live broadcasts. Also, reunions are a strong cultural theme for Chinese people. Therefore, for a family, a circle of friends or a football fan club, watching a football match on TV at home or in a bar is much more meaningful than streaming online.

Fourth, TV broadcasters like that CCTV have developed a reliable broadcasting team and program schedule. 

With years of experience in sports broadcasting, CCTV has strong production and editing teams. Some sports personalities like Liu Jianhong, Wangtao, Shen Fangjian and Wangdong have become active players in the Chinese sports industry after accumulating rich expertise, experience and social connections under the CCTV networks.

Additionally, CCTV has also formed a well-established football programming system. For example, permanent programs including Total Football, Premier League World and Super Football Night have become a powerful supplement to live broadcasts.

The factors above have ensured sustainable, impressive viewership ratings. According to a Yutang Report, the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil experienced a 1.9% average rating and 39.36% market share on CCTV (including CCTV 1, CCTV 5 and CCTV 5+). In other words, Chinese viewers hold television as the main platform of choice to watch the World Cup.

As Fatma Samoura, FIFA’s secretary general said, “Our close partnership with CCTV, reinforced by this new two-cycle deal, will make the Fifa World Cup even more accessible to the Chinese audience, increase further the popularity of the game in the country, and support the development of Chinese football.”

Proofread by William Logsdon 

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