The English Premier League makes millions from the sale of overseas television rights, but tapping into the Chinese market has proven to be difficult.
A pay-per-view deal valued at $60 million collapsed and the EPL is in the second of a three-year deal for coverage on regional free-to-air broadcasters. The fact only state-owned CCTV can broadcast sports nationwide restricts competition for television rights, meaning the EPL can only expect to earn a fraction of what it makes in such countries as Hong Kong and Singapore. The popular NBA has taken the tact of airing its game for free in China.
“China remains a very unique broadcast market that requires a flexible and tailored approach in order to satisfy the various objectives of our clubs and stakeholders,” the league said in a statement to Bloomberg News. “As with a number of our key international markets, this is a long-term strategy and one that requires continual assessment.”
Pierre Justo, Asia director of sport and media for data company TNS/CSM Media Research, says the key to audience growth in China will be for foreign clubs to develop Chinese stars. Basketball and tennis took off on Chinese television because of the popularity of Yao Ming and Li Na.