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SBJ/October 29 - November 4, 2007/This Weeks News
NBC books AST event in Beijing
Published October 29, 2007
NBC’s Action Sports Tour plans to go global with a skateboarding competition in Beijing this April, just three years after the tour’s inception.
The event, which is expected to be announced today, is the result of an agreement between AST, the group behind the Dew Tour, and Beijing Xingyi New Media Investment Co. The deal gives Xingyi control of sponsorship and media rights in China for the event, while it pays a licensing and sanctioning fee to AST for running the competition.
Sources put the licensing fee in the mid-six figures. AST will be able to generate additional revenue by distributing media internationally from the event and selling advertising around any programming it offers. The tour’s owner, NBC, has not decided whether it will televise the event on NBC or USA, which currently air live events and highlights from the AST Dew Tour.
AST China, as the event is being called, is designed to jump-start AST’s licensing revenue from television distribution in Asia and give NBC a presence in Beijing four months before the 2008 Olympic Games. It has received official support from the city of Beijing and the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.
AST China will feature vert and park skateboarding competitions showcasing eight to 10 AST Dew Tour athletes and four Asian athletes. Initially, results will not factor into the points standings for the five-stop AST Dew Tour, but the tour could incorporate international results in the future.
“Part of what’s been successful about the tour is that all of our events are meaningful,” said Wade Martin, president and general manager of AST. “That’s something we think is important and may be something we look at here in the future.”
The X Games began hosting international competitions in 1998 when it hosted the Asian X Games in Phuket, Thailand. Last year, it hosted events in Mexico City and Shanghai, China. It’s expected to announce other international events in the future.
AST’s expansion into international events comes less than a month after it announced plans to launch a three-stop Winter Dew Tour beginning in December 2008.
Martin sees AST China as the first of several worldwide competitions that AST will operate. He envisions partnering with local organizer and media companies worldwide using the same licensing model. They aren’t currently speaking to anyone else internationally, but the possibility has been raised during international discussions regarding TV rights.
Like AST China, future events also would feature single sports — BMX, skateboarding or freestyle motocross — and possible markets include Europe, Australia, South America or New Zealand.
“That’s a long-term plan,” Martin said, “and we’re viewing China as our first step.”
Agents and athletes said the tour would not have problems finding athletes willing to participate in the inaugural AST China.
“It opens a huge opportunity for athletes because they can work with Chinese companies over there and won’t have to worry about it conflicting with their sponsors here,” said Steve Astephen, WMG principal of action sports.
“The lure of where it’s at will take the riders over there,” said Jamie Bestwick, a BMX vert competitor. “A lot of people are looking for excuses to travel and take their riding to new continents.”
AST and Xingyi haven’t finalized a site for AST China yet. AST executives will visit Beijing in November to review potential locations. One possible site is Daxing District, a suburb of Beijing.
Whichever site the group selects, it’s likely to play host to a vibrant event. Xingyi plans to host concerts featuring Chinese and international performers, and design a festival village around the skateboarding competitions.
Xingyi GM Zhou Qiang said the event’s success will be determined not only by its financial success but also its ability to expose Chinese youth to skateboarding and action sports. China sees those sports as creative outdoor activities that can promote healthy lifestyles among its youth, many of who spend time playing video or computer games.
If it achieves those goals, it’s likely that AST will return to China in 2009.
“This is the first year,” Zhou said, “but the teams on both sides are hoping based on our success in the first year to do this again in years to come.”