Details emerge of IMG’s Serie A distribution plan in China
By Martin Ross
Details of IMG’s plans for the distribution of Serie A media rights in China have emerged, with the agency seeking to secure free-to-air exposure as well as maximising competition between leading digital players PPTV and Tencent.
Earlier this month, IMG usurped rival MP & Silva by landing the Serie A international rights from 2018-19 to 2020-21, agreeing to pay €366.5 million ($426.5 million) per year in a tender run by Lega Serie A and Infront Italy, its appointed adviser.
Elements of IMG’s presentation to the league have been published by Calcio e Finanza, the Italian soccer business website, including the ‘Distribution Plan’ for the rights in China.
Incumbent Serie A rights-holders PPTV and Tencent, which both bid for rights in China during the Lega and Infront’s invitation to tender process, both feature in IMG’s proposal for the sale of digital rights, with two options referenced: an exclusive deal with either PPTV or Tencent; or non-exclusive agreements with both.
Suning, the Chinese electronics retailer and PPTV’s parent company, is sure to be keen to land Serie A rights given its ownership of Internazionale, although Chinese bids for rights during the recent auction were below expectations and are said to have come in at around €5 million per season.
The low bids came amid a downturn in the Chinese market following a rush of inflated spending, and Luigi de Siervo, Infront Italy’s chief executive, told Sportcal recently: “The direct offers made from PPTV, Tencent and others in the Chinese market were under value. For this reason our [overall] result is very interesting because at the moment we don’t have a big value in China.”
Figures cited in IMG documents predict that PPTV will have 3 million pay-per-view subscribers by the end of this year, with Tencent estimated to have between 1.5 million and 2 million.
The continuation of Serie A coverage on CCTV-5, the sports channel of the Chinese state broadcaster, also features in the distribution plans laid out by IMG, with the agency suggesting a minimum of two games per match day on national free-to-air television (pending the successful negotiation of a rights deal with CCTV).
Serie A games could be showcased on CCTV-5, which boasts a reach of 240 million households, or on the CCTV-5+ high-definition satellite channel, which has a reach of around 35 million households.
The distribution plan presented to the league also includes free-to-air coverage on “at least eight” regional networks, including Shanghai TV, Beijing TV, Guangdong TV, Jiangsu TV, Shandong TV and Shenzhen TV.
It is proposed that the eight networks, which have a combined household reach of up to 100 million, would show one game per match day at midnight (local time).
IMG did not wish to comment on the Serie A distribution plans in China when contacted by Sportcal.
A page from IMG's presentation published by Calcio e Finanza
Spending in China has been checked amid threats of government curbs on international investment.
MP & Silva has sold the Serie A rights since 2004 (and collectively since 2010) but narrowly lost out to IMG during the recent rights auction, with IMG’s presentation to the league said to have been among the key factors in landing the high-profile contract.
The value of the international rights deals from 2018-19 to 2020-21 represents a doubling of the €185 million per season paid by MP & Silva for the current cycle, albeit the €371-million annual total does include a 4-per-cent payment (of €14.5 million) to be spent on production development.
IMG is paying €340 million per season for the global media rights, along with €12 million per season for the betting rights.