Youku, a Chinese online video platform owned by the Alibaba group, has secured a package of live, non-exclusive, broadcast rights to pan-European soccer’s Uefa Champions League for the next three years.
The platform becomes the fourth Chinese media outlet to secure non-exclusive rights action from the 2021-22 to 2023-24 Champions League cycle in the last week, after Tencent, PP Sports and iQiyi announced their own deals over the weekend.
This is a significant agreement for Youku, which does not (yet) have as significant a sports streaming arm as the other three broadcasters, which are all experienced in terms of showing top-tier sporting action.
The deal, which started earlier this week with the one-off Uefa Super Cup encounter – this year between England’s Chelsea and Villareal of Spain – will also cover the second-tier Uefa Europa League.
Uefa and its Team Marketing agency, which assists the governing body in distributing its international rights, issued the tender for Chinese rights to the Champions League and Europa League (during the 2021-22 to 2023-24 rights cycle) in April, with a deadline for first-round bids of 17 May. That tender also included Macau and Hong Kong.
For the last cycle, covering the 2018-19 to 2020-21 period, PP Sports originally secured rights, only to back out of that deal in 2020 after entering (temporarily) serious financial difficulties.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV then showed action from last year’s Champions League via a sub-licensing deal with PP Sports.
China was one of the last remaining major markets in which Uefa and Team had not yet finalised any broadcast arrangements for the 2021-22 campaign, before Tencent kicked off proceedings.
In the last month, the governing body and Team have also sewn up deals with Virgin Media in Ireland, TVI in Portugal, and Digi Sport in Romania.
Youku, meanwhile, while not a seasoned sports broadcaster, has at times demonstrated a commitment, showing all matches from soccer’s Fifa 2018 World Cup in a sub-licensing deal with Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.
It has also broadcast behind-the-scenes content from American football's NFL over the last three years.