– European Sports Team Acquisitions Are Unfolding
– Media Companies Buying Stakes in Sports Streaming and Content Services
International sport is going digital and tech companies are going so far as to buying entire clubs themselves to make it happen.
Linear broadcast and pay TV networks still have programming rights largely tied down for major professional sports leagues in the US and other major markets, but the time is coming when distribution deals will expire and more live sports content will head online.
Inter Milan: in line for Chinese takeover
In China, Internet giants are playing the game differently in order to ensure live sports content for their own streaming service interests by buying stakes in and purchasing European football (soccer) teams.
The country is looking to develop and spark interest in soccer as the president reportedly hopes to turn China into a soccer powerhouse. Chinese tech companies are finding that investing in the teams themselves will grant the ability to stir up public interest in the sport and ensure a supply of live soccer matches to streaming services which in turn expands the reach of the streaming matches to new audiences.
China’s Tech Companies Invest Heavily in European Soccer
China’s Suning Commerce Group, an electronics retailer and major investor in China’s PPTV Internet TV streaming service has announced it is in talks to purchase the top league Italian soccer team Inter Milan.
Owning the team would allow the company to grant streaming rights as it chooses and considering its investment in PPTV the deal would almost ensure that the streaming service is granted streaming rights to the soccer matches.
In addition, Galatioto Sports Partners confirmed it’s brokering a possible sale of top league Italian soccer team AC Milan to “an unspecified Chinese group”. But Giornale which is owned by Silvio Berlusconi who also owns AC Milan, has reported that the buyer could be China’s Baidu, the search engine giant in the country.
Baidu recently opened a funding round for a second streaming platform focused on movies and premium TV content called Baidu Video. Sports programming falls into that category of premium TV content and if the AC Milan purchase by Baidu does happen its streaming service will benefit from the deal since owning the team will give Baidu control over the streaming rights which it would grant to its own service.
Last year, Dalian Wanda Group bought a 20% stake in Atletico Madrid, a Spanish soccer club. It also purchased Swiss sports marketing agency Infront which produces broadcasts of the World Cup for FIFA. It also partnered with FIFA recently to earn the highest level of sponsorship and marketing rights to all FIFA matches. A China Media Capital-led investment group also bought a $400 million stake in the English Premier Leagues’s Manchester City FC last year.
The heavy investments in European soccer signal that the sport is gaining significant popularity in the region and tech companies are getting a foot in the door now. When the sport truly takes off in China companies like Baidu and Suning will have a controlling stake in the broadcasting and streaming deals for the matches and Chinese soccer fandoms to profit from.
OTT distribution will allow for the sports leagues and teams to improve their reach to a larger audience, so streamers like Baidu will be able to reach new audiences that pay TV networks can’t. New revenue streams will come from users live streaming matches and companies like Baidu and Suning won’t need to pay an arm and a leg for the rights to stream. Not to mention Internet distribution allows for content like small soccer match-ups to reach audiences more effectively as soccer gains more fans throughout China.
Media Companies Investing in Sports Platforms
Media companies are also investing in platforms pushing sports content as more fans are looking online for coverage. At least a third of sports fans want to access programming from their mobile devices according to the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), and where there is demand there must be a supply, so sports fans will undoubtedly see more online coverage of events in the near future. As a result companies are investing in the platforms to deliver sports programming now.
Discovery Communications is acquiring a minor stake in Asia’s RugbyPass, a digital content platform spanning 23 markets in Asia. RugbyPass delivers live streams and video on-demand of the some of the world’s biggest rugby matches. Discovery’s Sentanta Sports Asia…
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