World Snooker lands 10-year digital rights deal in China with Rigour Media
World Snooker, the sport's commercial arm, today announced a 10-year deal in China to licence its digital rights to Rigour Media, the technology company.
Rigour, which has provided ball-tracking technology at major World Snooker tournaments in recent years, has acquired exclusive control of digital audiovisual rights in China for all events to 2027.
Matches will be streamed on Rigour’s Superstar Online platform, as well as other sub-licensed platforms, while the agreement also encompasses e-gaming rights, e-community and social media rights, licensing and e-commerce and an official membership scheme in China.
The deal adds to World Snooker's recent 10-year renewal in China with CCTV, the state broadcaster. CCTV broadcasts the four ranking events in China plus the World Cup, UK Championship, Masters, Welsh Open and World Championship, meaning a number of other tournaments will be shown solely on SuperStar Online.
This is the first time that World Snooker has carved digital rights in China out of the traditional TV rights agreement in a bid to take full advantage of the huge government-backed spending on the Chinese digital sector and on sport.
At a news conference in Beijing today, World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn said: “Snooker has grown in China at an astonishing rate in recent years and shows no signs of slowing down. We have capitalised on this expansion with more tournaments, more prize money for the players and more snooker to watch for fans, both on television and online.
“These 10-year deals with CCTV and Rigour Media will allow us to continue our long term strategy of developing and exploiting the vast popularity of snooker in China. And for the hundreds of millions of snooker fans in the country this is fantastic news as they will have more and more opportunities to watch the best players at the biggest tournaments.”
Talks with digital players in China had been ongoing for over a year, with Hearn having told Sportcal in July 2016: “We are talking to nine major media operators in China, everyone from Alibaba to Tencent, PPTV, LeSports, Baidu [owner of iQiyi], Wanda… it goes on and on.”
He said at the time that World Snooker was seeking a package with "a much wider remit" than just rights, including school and academy programmes, membership schemes and even the sale of products under the World Snooker banner.
The deal with CCTV is important due to the sheer size of the free-to-air market in China, evidenced by the cumulative audience of 210 million on the CCTV-5 sports channel across the 17 days of the 2016 World Championship, where China's Ding Junhui lost to England's Mark Selby in the final.