Merely a month after LeEco, formerly known as LeTV, announced a three-year deal at CES with the Major League Baseball sports league for broadcasting rights, the company has accelerating its push into the sports sector by acquiring a 100% stake in Zhangyu.tv.
Zhangyu.tv, a Chinese live sports platform, is included among the fastest-growing tech companies in China, and was acquired for RMB 300 million (USD 46M), reports tech media site Huxiu.com.
After the deal is finalized, Zhangyu.tv will become a part of Le Sports, operating as a live platform providing user-generated content from amateur sports commentators and anchors. The new platform will be integrated into the present LeEco sports ecosystem which includes content, ads, sports events, activities, and sports stars. CEO of Zhangyu.tv, Zhang Xuan will assume the position of Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at Le Sports.
Zhang dropped out from a doctoral program at Yale to start his own business. Zhangyu.tv, his third business project, grew out of his second business, a video aggregator focusing on sports and games broadcasts. Launched in early 2015, Zhangyu.tv’s sports broadcasting includes billiards, wrestling, football and badminton.
With two rounds of financing from IDG and Morningside Capital, Zhangyu landed its latest Series C financing of several hundred million yuan last September. In the year since beginning operations, Zhangyu’s 100 employees have managed to attract 5000 amateur sports anchors and five million daily active users. Zhangyu.tv specializes in providing personalized sports commentary and broadcasting from its mobile app, and dynamic networking for its userbase.
“I believe the year 2016 will see explosive user-generated original broadcasting of sports events and e-sports in China. This will become the new favorite among young Chinese netizens, for both entertainment and social networking,” said Lei Zhenjian, CEO of Le Sports.
Le Sports is a subsidiary of the Chinese technology giant LeEco, whose core businesses stretch between video, film, smart TVs, sports through to electronics and electric cars. Le Sports became independent from the LeEco in late 2014 and independently raised its first round of financing at RMB 800 million, with participation from a venture capital firm founded by Alibaba’s Jack Ma. It is already one of China’s top sports technology companies, with the holding rights to over 10,000 sports events.
In addition to buying Zhangyu.tv, Le Sports has made big moves lately. On Monday, it bought a controlling stake in Sodasoccer, a Beijing-based soccer data company, for around RMB 40 million. It agreed to pay RMB 100 million for the title sponsorship for leading football club Beijing Guoan.
Industry insiders predict that there is a “stirring revolution” happening in the Chinese sports industry. The State Council of China has a target to grow the sports industry to RMB five trillion by 2025. A report released by the Chinese Crunchbase, ITJuzi.com, said one of the best-funded sectors in 2015 was entertainment and sports.
In this sector, tech companies are now mainly competing for sports broadcasting rights, racing to acquire IP rights for their platforms.
China’s BAT companies have not missed out on this opportunity. Tencent, with its own broadcasting site Sports.qq.com, spent USD 500 million last May in a five-year deal with the NBA to acquire exclusive online broadcast rights to basketball games.
Alisports, launched by Alibaba last September, signed partnership deals with the American National Football League and the International Boxing Association in January, and also a deal with the Pac-12, sponsoring an annual U.S. college basketball game played in China.
Other vigorous players in sports broadcasts are Sina Sports and the 12-year-old basketball-focused online community Hupu.com.
(Top photo from Baidu Images)