China Media Capital Expands Playing Field In Record Deal For Soccer Rights

Demonstrating its continued appetite for diverse content, Li Ruigang’s China Media Capital is to pay a record $1.3B for broadcast rights to Chinese Super League soccer, the Financial Times reports. The five-year deal is a massive increase from the roughly $8M per year that is currently being paid. This is a significant play by one of China’s most respected media executives — whose CMC is also partnered locally with Warner Bros and DreamWorks — as a hedge that soccer will become a bigger business in the Middle Kingdom with kids paying to watch on mobile devices.

Chinese media companies have increasingly invested in the beautiful game with AMC owner Wanda last year taking a stake in Spanish club Atletico Madrid. Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group also has a stake in local club Evergrande Taobao which filed for an IPO in July and which has seen an influx of Brazilian players. Li last week visited Manchester City football club during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the UK.

“The value of local sports leagues has not been fully discovered” in China, Li told the FT. Further “high-profile” international sports investments as well as more entertainment deals are being mulled.

China Media Capital recently entered a joint venture with Warner Bros to develop and produce a slate of Chinese-language films, including global tentpoles, for worldwide distribution. That partnership, Flagship Entertainment Group, will be based in Hong Kong with offices in Beijing and LA. Hong Kong broadcaster TVB has 10% of that CMC-led consortium.

State-backed CMC is also partnered with Oriental DreamWorks and recently set up a fund with IMAX for investment in a minimum of 10 Mandarin-language tentpoles. Last week, CMC announced a joint venture with Merlin Entertainments to create world-class visitor attractions in China including a Legoland park in the Shanghai area and the development of DreamWorks Tours – Kung Fu Panda Adventures. Kung Fu Panda 3 is due for release in China on January 29.

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