Tencent Sports has secured live streaming rights for the FA Cup, Scottish Premiership, Ligue 1 Conforama and Serie A TIM in a move that will further bolster sports rights in China.
Tencent secured the non-exclusive rights, which cover mainland China for the 2017/18 football season, from sports media rights agency MP & Silva.
The deal will give Chinese football fans access to five major European football properties, including the UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga, which they can view live along with highlights and review programmes.
Tencent plans to expand its live streaming technologies to include augmented reality and 3D technologies, as well as establishing online communities where fans can interact, watch matches, share information and win prizes.
The content will be available across Tencent platforms, including Tencent Sports app and website, Tencent Video app and Tencent news app.
The move is part of the company’s ongoing strategy to invest in content and expand its entertainment empire.
“These rights are extremely significant for Tencent Sports,” said David Hornby, head of sports at Chinese digital marketing agency Mailman.
“In the last two years, PPTV and Suning Sports have been acquiring the premium football content on an exclusive basis, becoming the home of European football on IPTV in China. For this season at least though, Tencent Sports will be broadcasting three of the top five European leagues, including the Bundesliga, who were announced as the number one European league online in China earlier this year.”
“This is also great news for the football and sports rights holders. It shows that Tencent Sports are still willing to invest in acquiring content, and will continue to drive the value of sports rights in China,” said Hornby.
Tencent has yet to comment on whether the content will be free to access, something Hornby said is unlikely.
“We do though expect to see the top football content behind a paywall in the 2017-18 season from both PPTV and Tencent Sports, meaning that fans will be forced into paying for this premium content, something that has slowly been growing over the last two years,” said Hornby.
“We expect to see new viewers follow these sports on the Tencent Sports ecosystem, especially a large crossover from the NBA fan base, which is great news for these rights holders. The subscription model though, will be key for the viewers, with Chinese users focusing on not only the quality of the broadcast but the amount they'll be charged to view,” added Hornby.
The deals will give more Chinese sports fans access to football, which is good news for China’s growing football community.
Football is a major area of focus for the Chinese Government, which aims to improve football skills in China, in a bid to enable the country to host, and ultimately win, the FIFA World Cup within the next 15 years.
This ambition has led to a huge growth in the popularity of football in China and has helped ensure China is a lucrative market for broadcast sports rights. There has also been a surge of interest in the Chinese Super League, which is attracting big name players such as Carlos Tevez, Alex Witsel, Oscar and Alexandre Pato.
Football in China is also a key strategy for brands such as Adidas, which have invested significant budget in China’s grassroots football programs. Adidas China recently partnered with China’s Ministry of Education (MOE) and China Education Television (CETV) to launch an official TV series to teach young people football skills.