During his case-study presentation at Sports Matters, a two-day conference delving into the issues and trends facing the Asia sports industry, Xie highlighted the changing Chinese attitude toward sports.
“Chinese people are spending more time on sports activities, pursuing a more active lifestyle," he said. "The Colour Run was hugely popular and for the Beijing Marathon, there’s about 100 applications for every available participation slot. In addition, more major sporting events are choosing China has the host country, such as the 2022 Winter Olympics.”
With its population of 1.4 billion and per capita GDP of US$7,575, China represents a massive opportunity.
“It’s been noted that once a country’s GDP per capita hits US$8,000, the sports industry will naturally break out, and we are almost there," Xie said. "In fact there are nine provinces in China that have already hit US$10,000 GDP per capita, and these spots are more than ready for this boom."
Xie reported that sport in China has plenty of room to grow, with the average value of the industry in developed nations normally around 2 per cent of GDP. The United States stands at 2.6 per cent, while China is still at 0.6 per cent.
“The Chinese government is predicting that the local sports industry will be a mega market worth RMB5,000 billion (US$785 billion), growing 16 times over the next 10 years,' he said. "The government is hoping that the industry will be a key driver to economic growth as well."
So what is Tencent’s role in this entire endeavour? It is already the biggest Internet company in China, with the fourth or fifth largest market capitalisation in the world (depending on how Alibaba’s shares are doing). Its messaging platform QQ has 800 million monthly active users, while WeChat has more than 600 million monthly active users, Xie said.
Tencent Sport, the company’s sports broadcast and community division, has been active in securing content deals for its community of 60 million monthly active users. In August it closed a deal with UEFA for the rights to live broadcast UEFA Champions League and Europa League from 2015 through 2018.
The company also recently closed an exclusive deal with the NBA, as its exclusive online partner for the next five years, reported to be worth US$500 million. Via its Broadcast Plus offering, Tencent Sport touts itself as the provider of the “most sophisticated live broadcast services” in the country.
“So if you want to watch the NBA online in China, Tencent is your only choice," Xie said. "We are also offering a full 300-degree viewing experience for users, which has not been done online before with one main window for live games and three other smaller windows from different angles. In addition, users watching the matches at the same time can communicate with each other as well or even throw virtual eggs."
In the role of broadcaster, Xie said the company offers a slew of support services and content to partners who sign up with the platform, including live streaming, content operations, editorial services, and for users, access to online sport communities along with sports-themed games.
It also offers users ways to move beyond just watching sports and to connect to sports events, services and tracking of personal fitness activity information under it’s Internet+ umbrella.
Xie added that the company is in a good, not best, position to seize opportunities in the upcoming sports boom and issued an invitation to sports content owners and rights owners to reach out.
“If you want to have a presence in China, please come talk to us because we’re committed to ‘connecting to all things sports’,” he said.