Asia's Top Sports Media Properties: ONE, CSL, IPL And The Continent's Other Leaders
Headline: Asia's Top Sports Media Properties: ONE, CSL, IPL And The Continent's Other Leaders
Author: Matt Connolly, Contributor
Date: Wed, 11 Jan 2017 06:02:00 -0500
Hours Ago: 16
Asia, a continent with a long history of importing its major professional sports, has come into its own over the past decade when it comes to building athletic competition from within.
While most of the region’s favorite leagues, teams and players still come from Europe and the United States, a select group of organizations representing a variety of sports are beginning to emerge as real threats to their Western counterparts.
From domestic staples to entities with a fast-growing international following, these are the top sports media properties in Asia today.
ONE Championship (ONE)
While its revenue is kept under wraps as a privately owned company, no Asian sports media property boasts the reach of ONE, which broadcasts to over one billion viewers in 118 countries, including all 48 in Asia.
Currently, the promotion is in year five of a 10-year media rights partnership with Fox Sports Asia (formerly ESPN Star Sports), the region’s top network for live sporting events.
Though headquartered in Singapore, the Asian MMA leader has packed stadiums in seven different countries, with plans to enter three more of the continent’s biggest sports hubs (Japan, Korea, Vietnam) and continue its expansion throughout China in 2017. Its sold-out crowds of 20,000-plus in the Philippines match the highest attendance total recorded by the UFC domestically.
ONE’s widespread appeal and rapid growth has attracted no shortage of big-name sponsors including Fortune 500 companies Sony (#113 global ranking), Disney (#164) and LG Electronics (#180). Other sponsors include Marvel Entertainment, Under Armour, Monster Energy and Facebook.
The company’s most important partner, however, could be Singaporean national wealth fund Temasek Holdings, whose recent investment is helping to fast-track the promotion to a $1 billion valuation.
With respect to all of these factors, ONE has cemented itself as Asia’s largest sports media property.
Chinese Super League (CSL)
The majority of the company’s 2015 revenue of $230 million— a modest figure despite tripling from year-to-year — was from domestic broadcasting rights worth $155 million. But that number is set to explode on the strength of a new partnership with China Sports Media (Tiao Dongli), which agreed to pay the CSL $1.25 billion for exclusive domestic rights from 2016-2020.
CSL has also agreed to a marquee international TV deal with sports talent agency powerhouse IMG for 2016 and 2017, as well as a two-year streaming deal with LeSports that will extend coverage to Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and much of Southeast Asia.
The league’s title sponsors have steadily increased in value and name recognition, with Ping An insurance signing on for $86 million from 2014 to 2016. Its attendance figures are also experiencing a larger percentage growth than any other major football organization, with average ticket sales recently surpassing Major League Soccer.
Indian Premier League (IPL)
Cricket hardly receives any coverage in Western media, but the IPL continues to boom in India and other countries throughout Asia.
The sport’s most distinguished league recently jumped to a valuation over $4 billion after its ninth tournament on the strength of improved viewership and increased ad revenue, grossing $378 million in 2016. The IPL’s most valuable teams — the Mumbai Indians and Kolkata Knight Riders — are said to be worth nearly $80 million apiece.
Those numbers are due for another leap in 2018, when the league’s 10-year, $1 billion TV and digital broadcast deals with Sony Pictures Network India and Star India expire. The tender and bidding process for both wrapped up in Fall 2016.
Spectator interest seems to be declining a bit, but the IPL still boasts the fifth-highest average attendance in the sporting world at nearly 33,000.
Indian Super League (ISL)
The Indian Super League — launched by IMG Worldwide, Reliance Industries and Star Sports India — has already established itself as a top-three football league in Asia after only three years of operation.
Though its tournament format has drawn national criticism, there is no debating its rising popularity given it most recent viewership and attendance totals. 216 million tuned in for the third season, with an average of over 20,000 fans per match.
Broadcasting is obviously where the ISL excels, however, given that one of its primary sponsors is a top sports network in India. The league currently broadcasts to over 100 countries worldwide while streaming to over 160.
Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB)
The NPB is a distant second to Major League Baseball by most measures, but as of 2012, Japan’s longstanding pro baseball league gained far more annual revenue than any other Asian sports organization, with estimates ranging from $1.3 to $1.5 billion. In addition, Nippon’s two most popular teams — the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants — were both valued over $1 billion.
One area where the NPB rivals the MLB is attendance, where its near 30,000-fan average puts it just behind its American counterpart, and top 10 in the world. The Tigers and Giants both regularly top 40,000.
The J1 League, the top level of Japan’s professional football association, may have taken a back seat to the CSL in recent years, but it is still a major player in the world football scene.
J1 finished with an annual revenue north of $560 million in 2015, with an operating income of $ roughly 115 million.
2016 was a more memorable year in the league’s history, as Japan’s top three football levels (J1, J2, J3) agreed to a 10-year partnership with global sports media company Perform Group worth over $1.8 billion that will stream all J. League matches online.