51 days to go to the AFC Asian Cup, UAE 2019

John Yan: When Team China meets the Voice of China 当中国之队遇上”中国好声音”

When a huge volume of capital enters an industry, the impact can be overwhelming, the industry can be changed from top to bottom. At least this is what football fans in China would expect to happen, as capital is changing the outlook of football, particularly under the big change in circumstances for the game as it becomes a hot area in Chinese society.

The latest breakthrough was the result of media companies bidding for the media rights of Team China. China Sportsmedia Co. Ltd ended up winning the exclusive rights to Team China’s next four years of home matches.

This is the first time that the Chinese FA (CFA) have sold the media rights of Team China through a public bidding process, and the result meant that the traditional main stream media companies, such as CCTV, can no longer control the broadcasting situation of Team China. Theoretically, if CCTV wants to show any of Team China’s home matches, they have to pay China Sportsmedia Co. Ltd for subsiding media right fees.

Team China is a concept which includes all national football teams representing China, from full international, to the U23s, the women’s full international team to all the different age groups. The price that China Sportsmedia Co. Ltd offered, was around 60 million to 70 million RMB (around £6 -7 million) for the first year, but increasing annually. Altogether 14 different media and marketing companies entered the bidding process, including CCTV, Netease, Tencent, and marketing companies as Infront, China Sportsmedia Co. Ltd., Oceans etc.

Two years ago, the media rights of Team China were something that no-one was interested in. From 2009 to 2014 the full international team played 54 matches in China, and those matches were spread across 26 cities, including quite a few third level or fourth level smaller cities, as well as regional capitals like Beijing or Shanghai – there was simply no interest in the struggling team. Media coverage was bad too, even the match, when China defeated South Korea for first time in 30 years, was not broadcast on CCTV.

Team China was too bad, football in China was a laughing stock, sohu.com did spend around 7million RMB per year as the internet media partner of Team China for a couple of years, but didn’t continue the partnership.

CFA and Team China desperately need more revenue to cover all costs – 2015 becomes a turning point. At the beginning of the year, the full international team did OK in the Asian Cup, and since then overall reform policy issued by the central government has turned everything over.

China Sportsmedia Co. Ltd. was not a well known company, but it has been providing a media service for football for more than 20 years. To acquire the media rights at such a staggering price, the company has the strong support of HuaRen Culture Capital Fund, which is the largest media investment fund in China. HuaRen’s projects include a cooperation with Hollywood for Dream Works in Shanghai, Disneyland in Shanghai, and one of the most popular entertainment shows in China, the Voice of China.

Considering Wang Jianlin’s active involvement in football, as his Wanda Group bought 20% ownership of Atletico Madrid, and acquired Infront, and other examples of heavy investment into football, the spring is coming finally to China Football. Capital is the unseen moving hand, and changes are exactly what China football needs.

John Yan is Deputy Editor of Netease.com.

当中国之队遇上”中国好声音”

当海量资本进入到一个相对新鲜的行业领域,有可能冲击已有的行业势力分配、组织形式,改变已有的产品形态,甚至可能重新定义这个行业的游戏规则。

这个相对新鲜的行业领域,就是中国足球和中国体育。相对新鲜,是因为政策和社会环境的改变,让2015年成为了体育尤其足球,在中国社会极度火热的行业。海量资本的到来,过去几年已经在职业联赛的部分俱乐部上略有体现,最新的案例,是中国之队未来四年媒体版权的竞标结果。

结果的公开宣布,发生在3月28日晚间8点53分,中国足协在官网上宣布:经过两轮的竞购谈判,体奥动力体育传播有限公司成功竞得未来四年中国之队赛事媒体版权。

这是中国足协首次通过竞标方式,落实中国之队赛事媒体版权的归属,理论上,传统主流媒体对中国之队比赛电视转播的控制,将会被放松。有媒体报道说:”今后即便央视要转播中国之队的比赛,也必须向体奥动力方面支付版权费。”

由福特宝公司主持的中国之队赛事媒体版权,涵盖的是中国足球国字号系列队未来四年的主场赛事,这当中不包括中国之队去到客场的比赛。体奥动力中标的价格,官方新闻中当然不会涉及,各种媒体报道,都会用”大手笔投入”来形容,甚至会援引:”中标价格可能在每年5000万到8000万这个区间。”总共有14家不同机构,参与了这次中国之队媒体版权的竞标,包括代表着央视的中视体育以及腾讯、网易这样的媒体机构,也有业务范围包括媒体版权运营者,如体奥动力、盈方、欧迅体育、华录百纳等。

最终价格,应该从第一年7000万人民币开始,此后3年递增。中国之队的赛事价值,从两三年前还无人问津,变得炙手可热:从2009年到2014年,国足长年在二三四线城市流浪着,这5年在国内进行的公开售票的国足场次达到54场,共有20个省份及直辖市共26个城市承办过赛事。国足许多比赛,在央视根本得不到播出机会,包括高洪波担任主教练时代,那场3比0打败韩国的比赛。

在那几年,中国之队的媒体版权成为了一个虚设的概念,因为中国足球社会形象过于糟糕,也因为中国之队竞技成绩的全面崩溃,中国足协无法将国字号球队的赛事版权,进行商业化经营。有媒体机构承担过例如中国之队官网建设,并且负责在互联网平台上直播比赛等项目,但每年收入千万元人民币都不到,对于维持中国之队——成年国足、国奥、各级国青、成年女足、各年龄组别女足,这样的媒体版权收入,发挥不了多少积极作用。

足球大环境的改变,是中国之队媒体版权具备贩售可能性的前提,2015年年初亚洲杯上国足不错的表现,应该是中国足协信心的及时提升依据。而资本向足球行业的涌入,改变了中国之队门可罗雀的荒芜,带来的潜在变化,对足球行业和体育媒体两种生态领域,都会有着长远影响。

体奥动力并不是一个耳熟能详的名字,然而仔细分析这家机构的从业背景,能发现他们从事媒体版权经营长达十余年,从最早作为中超联赛媒体版权合作伙伴、制作中超联赛全部场次公共信号,到足协杯媒体合作与信号制作,到亚冠中国大陆区媒体合作、东亚四强赛媒体合作、世俱杯中国大陆区独家媒体合作以及J联赛、K联赛、A联赛和德甲、西甲、意甲、意大利杯、2008年欧洲杯等等赛事,都能看到清晰的足球媒体版权经营脉络。之所以此前知名度欠缺,和机构名称发生过调整有关,也和长期低调运行相关。

以超出此前版权成本七八倍的价格,拿下中国之队四年媒体权益,体奥动力并不是孤身前行,这家机构的一大支撑力量,来自于其身后的华人文化产业投资基金。正是因为有了华人文化这样强势基金的力推,才能将中国之队的版权价格推升到一个事先难以想象的高度。中国足球当然是这一次竞标过程的直接受益者。

华人文化的董事长黎瑞刚,是中国传媒业屈指可数的大佬,华人文化的发起方和出资方,包括上海SMG、国开金融、上海大众等以及国际资本。东方梦工厂,就是这种巨型资本进入文化领域的大手笔。”中国好声音”这样的传媒业奇迹,也和华人文化的资本推手相关。体奥动力关于中国之队的签约仪式上,肯定会有华人文化高层的公开背书。资本的力量,正在改变着中国足球和中国传媒。

这些海量资本带来的变化,从王健林投资马竞、收购盈方,从腾讯天价竞标NBA版权,从乐视收购各种足球赛事版权集大成,都能找到依据。英超的繁盛,在1992年创立伊始就与天空电视机构形成的独家合作相关,巨额版权收入,给联赛带来的不仅是俱乐部购买力上升,更是职业联赛媒体现代化的形成。此前奥运会的”大逆转”、NBA在80年代中期的崛起,都和现代传媒强力输血直接相关,而资本在这一系列变化中,就是那只推波助澜的巨手。

这样的变化,未必能及时改变中国足球的一切,新萌生的各种变化,也未必都是健康积极的,例如英超并不能帮助英格兰代表队提升国际竞技成绩。然而沉寂的一潭死水,终归需要石破惊天的源头活水。