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Chinese to Enjoy English Premier League for Free? (Update)

That might be possible from 2010. According to a latest Bloomberg article, some non-media companies may bid for the next 3-year Chinese television broadcasting rights to EPL after the contract runs out with WinTV, a pay-per-view channel run by state-owned Guangdong Provincial Television. And where to watch next? CCTV. Below are some excerpts:

A group of non-media companies may bid for Chinese television rights to English Premier League matches as the world’s richest soccer league tries to gain viewers to build its brand, an official said.

The move follows the failure of the current holder, local pay-per-view television network WinTV, to attract significant subscribers and the reluctance of state broadcaster China Central Television to pay a premium for the rights, Phil Lines, the Premier League’s head of international broadcasting and media operations, said in an interview.

“I have talked to some people who are possibly putting together a consortium of advertisers who would like to buy the product and take it to free to air (on CCTV),” Lines said.

He declined to reveal the companies involved, saying only that they were “world-wide brands” in the sporting goods, soft drinks and alcoholic beverage industries. The contract comes up in 2010. If successful, the bidders would give CCTV the rights in exchange for free advertising during matches, Lines added.

WinTV was reported to have trouble financing at the end of 2008. Song Zheng, its CEO, issued an open letter via Titan Sports, saying the company is determined to win another 3-year of EPL broadcasting rights. Below are our translation:

The Future Broadcasting Rights Will Be Ours

1. We never expect a runaway success in the sector per-per-view TV by broadcasting EPL. When we were preparing and making plans, it’s never just a 3-year plan. Even in Hong Kong, a relatively successful PPV TV market, it took six years for paid EPL games to be accepted. As we’re ready for putting a long-term effort in doing this, so with our preparation in terms of capital.

2. After two years of groping, WinTV, as an innovator of PPV TV in China, has grown a lot in this department. We tried every means to provide more valued products to Chinese football fans, but not force them to pay to watch.

3. We adapt ourselves to meet the current trends. China’s digital television viewers has jumped from 10 ml to 30 ml, and we adapted ourselves to this trend (CSR note: WinTV is a digital channel.) Besides, with the issue of 3G licenses here, we’ll have more opportunities in new media. In terms of the Internet front, we turned to partnership with carriers like China Netcom and China Mobile from only Internet portals. We believe, along with many of these tight partnerships, we have a bright future.

WinTV is determined to acquire another 3-year EPL broadcasting rights.

WinTV of course can’t force fans to pay, what they did was actually cutting the prices. Their whole-year subscription fee was adjusted to RMB 588 in 2008 from RMB 1,888 in 2007. Unfortunately, Chinese football fans now have sort of a anti-WinTV sentiment. In a poll published by Yangtse Evening News (扬子晚报) about whether or not people would welcome WinTV’s enterance in Shanghai a few days ago, 45.72% of all 5687 people said they want free EPL games only, and a impressive 40.13% percent rather not to watch WinTV even they’re offered free games by the channel. These numbers will be far from pleasing to hear for the Premier League big four. Below are David Gill, CEO of Man United’s take on their exposure from the Bloomberg article:

“There has been lessons learned this year in this contract and will be addressed going forward,” Gill said in an interview in Hong Kong earlier this week. “We, along with Chelsea, along with Liverpool, along with Arsenal, have made the point. We must have better exposure.”

Europe’s other top leagues like Italy’s Serie A and La Liga in Spain are broadcast on free television, bringing those matches to far more homes. English clubs would like to reach additional fans, Gill said.

“We would prefer to have more exposure,” Gill said. “The reality is it helps us with our own business goals and other commercial aims.”

But wait a minute. Does the fans’ strong response in the poll look a bit unreasonable? Maybe not if they’re offered some alternatives. “I don’t want to pay them now that there’s free lunch everywhere,” said Mr.Zhao to China Sports Review, “Don’t you think the games are supposed to be free?” Zhao makes RMB 8,000 a month working for a Chinese magazine, a salary could well afford his weekend TV pastime provided by WinTV. But he simply won’t purchase any of their products with p2p games available online. An earlier New York Times article examined this thorn, not just for the Guangdong-based TV channel:

Major League Baseball has perhaps the most advanced online business of the major sports, and offers a season of games streamed online for $79.95, a price that league executives say will come down slightly in 2009. Robert A. Bowman, the chief executive of M.L.B.comsaid that [online] piracy hurt business, but that “it’s embryonic, it’s not widespread, and we have a distinct advantage in that we have a better product.”

Ms. Deutsch, the lawyer at the N.B.A., hosted a gathering recently of executives from other sports leagues — not just in the United States but around the world — at the N.B.A.’s offices in New York City to discuss ways of combating live-game piracy.

“We view it as an international issue,” she said.

That is not just because sports leagues abroad face the same issue, but also because the pirates themselves, the hubs of the peer-to-peer networks that facilitate the illicit streaming of live games, are mostly outside the United States. Often they are in China, where some of the most popular services started as student projects, say league executives who have tracked the digital trail of their pirated games.

Compared with WinTV, CCTV, China’s main TV broadcaster who won big last year for the exclusive broadcasting of the Beijing Games, remained low-key so far. The Chinese public broadcaster has been awarded a major package of UEFA Champions League rights at the end of 2008. Under the terms of the deal, free-to-air channel CCTV 5 will broadcast at least one live match and a highlights programme on every UEFA Champions League matchnight as well as at least one delayed match every matchweek and the UEFA Super Cup. Coverage of the UEFA Champions League on CCTV 5 will be available to over 350 million homes throughout China. In addition, all live matches from the UEFA Champions League will be available on the internet via www.cctv.com and on mobile via the CCTV mobile portal cctvsports.net.

Related Reads:

Update – EPL is now back for free to Chinese in 2009-2010 season

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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. l #

    :)

    January 16, 2009
  2. kola #

    please can we recieve the cctv 5 and 9 in Nigeria West Africa?

    January 2, 2010
  3. David #

    I’m afraid the channel 5 may have IP restrictions for viewers outside of China. But try it yourself at http://sports.cctv.com/live

    And CCTV9 is at http://english.cctv.com

    January 2, 2010

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