China Digest | Youku obtains World Cup streaming rights

Weekly round-up of sports business news from the Chinese sports industry.

Youku obtains World Cup streaming rights
Chinese video-streaming platform Youku has acquired rights to the 2018 Fifa World Cup in a sublicensing deal with state broadcaster CCTV. The Alibaba-owned platform will stream all 64 matches live. CCTV, which acquired all media rights for the 2018 World Cup, has long been the home of Fifa’s showpiece in China, with its current deal running until 2022. Youku – the second streaming platform to sublicense World Cup rights this year, after China Mobile-backed Migu Video – was one of several sites to stream World Cup matches in 2010 –CCTV kept all matches to itself in Brazil four years ago.

OTT broadcast rights approved for Hisense
Official Fifa World Cup sponsor Hisense has been granted “over-the-top” (OTT) broadcast rights for the tournament, allowing Hisense smart TV users to watch live games directly via the internet. Hisense – a strategic partner of Youku Smart TV – will also work with CCTV to offer High Dynamic Range broadcasting. Earlier this year, Hisense reached an agreement with Fox Sports to provide similar coverage to its US customers.

More Chinese businesses to become World Cup sponsors
Fifa has taken heat for the failure to acquire regional partners for this summer’s World Cup, and it’s been Chinese sponsors who have prevented what could have been a disastrous sponsorship campaign. With Wanda an official Fifa Partner and second-tier Sponsors Hisense, Mengniu and Vivo already on board by last year, DDMC subsidiary Desports was this year tasked with finding additional as “regional supporters”. Chinese electric scooter firm Yadea signed up earlier this year, with VR tech company Zhidian Yijing joining last week. Fifa has not yet announced the latest deal, but DDMC confirmed the news last week.

Beijing 2022 to establish a new standard for the Winter Games
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach says the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will set a new benchmark for the Olympic Agenda 2020. Speaking in Beijing at a five-day debrief for the Pyeongchang Winter Games, which he claimed had made a “multi-million-dollar surplus”, Bach said the IOC had “turned the page with regard to the organization of the Olympics”, adding that Beijing 2022 would be the first Winter Games to fully benefit from the reforms. Bach earlier met Chinese vice-premier Sun Chunlan, who said the Beijing Games would coincide with a call for the development and popularisation of winter sports. Sun will also attend the World Cup opening ceremony next week as President Xi Jinping’s special envoy.

Financial issues threaten AC Milan’s Europa League future
Uefa investigators have recommended that AC Milan – owned by Chinese businessman Li Yonghong – should be kicked out of next season’s Europa Cup, according to a New York Times report, which cited two sources. Li’s Rossoneri Sport bought the club last year thanks in large part to a high-interest loan from US fund Elliott Management. But after spending an additional £200m on players, the club drew scrutiny from Uefa investigators, who have referred the club’s case to the adjudicatory body due to concerns that the club is not in a position to repay its loans. A ruling on the case is reportedly expected in “early June”.

Also this week:

  • Suning-owned Inter Milan announces plans to open an Australian academy in partnership with Chinese company Fullshare. The club also signed a deal with Mastercard.
  • West Ham United names Taiwan’s Eva Air as its first official airline partner.
  • German club Hamburger SV, newly relegated from the Bundesliga, is set to open four football schools in China.
  •  Everbright Capital’s sports fund has taken control of Chinese Basketball Association side Shanghai Sharks, until last year owned by Yao Ming.

And some further reading:

The China Digest is written by Mark Dreyer, who runs the China Sports Insider website, which features sports business news and analysis related to China’s fast-growing sports industry. He has worked for Sky Sports, Fox Sports, AP Sports and many others, and has covered major sporting events on five continents, including three Olympic Games. He has been based in China since 2007.

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