The 2016 edition of SPORTELAsia saw a 22% increase in new organisations present compared to the previous year. This year raked in 736 registered attendees representing more than 371 companies across 47 countrieswith 40% of the attendees of C-level.
The three-day conference kicked off with expert panel discussion on ‘China: What’s Next’, – focusing on the future of sports content in China. With a population of nearly 1.4 billion people, China is a vast market with the largest number of internet users- 680 million as of January 2016.
The sports content market in China has been fast-growing ever since China’s State Council issued a new guideline in October 2014. The guideline aims to boost the country’s sports industry, seeing the stepping back of the government from over-regulating the sports market, more preferential treatments and the introduction of more private investments. In January this year, the National Basketball Association (NBA) inked its largest international digital partnership with Tencent for a five-year deal- said to be worth US$700 million. The deal will see Tencent as the exclusive official digital partner of the NBA in China. Apart from that, Tencent also recently signed a major strategic partnership with ESPN where the former will get the exclusive digital rights in Mainland China to ESPN’s March Madness coverage.
According to a study conducted in December 2015 by iResearch Consulting Group, Tencent Sports ranks number one in terms of monthly active users with 44.07% of sports fans in China consuming sports information from them.
One of the highly discussed topics during SPORTEL was the subscription models in China. Globally, subscription models have proven successful as it provides the booming internet users convenience like no other. However, will subscription models work in China where most users are used to getting free content?
“In China, there have been failures in the past but as the economy develops, viewers have more leisure time and can consume more sports content of better quality. We believe the timing is now better to introduce a subscription model,” says Lusha Echo Yang, Director of Business Development and Cooperation at Tencent Sports.
She adds, “Tencent has launched a VIP service for our users, offering NBA games in high-definition (HD) as well as value-added services to members.”
As one of the key exhibitors this year, Tencent Sports showcased its NBA partnership to industry professionals and global sports IP holders at the event- over 5 billion viewers watched NBA matches during the 2015/2016 season. It is recorded that more than 6.4 million users caught the first live NBA game in China through Tencent Sports.
The China market is no doubt increasingly tense with broadcasters fighting for rights. To continue catching the eyeballs, there is a need for exclusivity and to possess new content. “Tencent is always looking for opportunities in the market. We see football and the Winter Olympics as something we would want to be involved. Tencent is into trying new things but we will choose the content that best suit the appetite of Chinese sports fans- through surveys and user research, we will see where the market is heading.
“As the users’ appetite is diversified, we will conduct research to decide what content and other new items are emerging such as extreme sports. Football has always been one of our key strategies and we will continue to see what more we can do,” she concluded.