Great Sports Media Co. GM Hui Li kicked off the the Sportel Asia World Sports Media Convention with a spirited defense of traditional media and by charging China’s No. 1 Internet portal Tencent of “acting irresponsibly” in its buying of rights. Li ended his keynote speech, which created a tense environment at the “Insight Into the Chinese Sports Media Industry” panel, by saying, “Maybe you don’t like what I said, but this is how I feel.” GSM is owned by Shanghai Media Group and is China’s No. 2 broadcaster behind CCTV, so Li’s position reflects the big company vs. the new kid on the block. Regardless, they were strong words in a country where directness and confrontation are often avoided. Li: “If you buy large amounts of rights but don’t have enough resources to broadcast, that’s irresponsible.” Li criticized outlets that buy up rights without a plan to maximize their use and said that practice “will destroy the promotion of sports.” He also emphasized the importance of local buyers that keep coverage individualized at a local level, such as broadcasting events in China’s regional dialects. Buyers should not only “pursue quick money,” but offer more integrated options. Li did offer an olive branch to his new media colleagues, saying, “I believe there’s a good market for both traditional and new media to work together in the future.”
RIGHTS DEALS SCREENED: Tencent GM of Media Business Development Sam Xie followed Li’s rant with a dismissive defense, stating that his company does not, in fact, buy everything, and the rights it does buy go through a strict screening. Xie also said that Tencent is interested in creating more opportunities for offline media, such as an app to connect players and order gear, while simultaneously WeChat can be used as a tool to help supplement the new medium. Furthermore, Xie added that WeChat is available for and encouraged to be used by third parties to grow their own brands and markets. Xie: “Our profits are based on your profits.” Regarding the attack on modern media, Xie responded, “We should look into the future.”
INTO THE DEBATE: Last to jump in on the discussion was Ting Zhan, director of LeTV, who stayed a bit more neutral in the debate. Zhan explained that LeTV’s strategy consists of four pillars, covering both new and traditional media: content, platform, application, and terminal (which include smart TV and OTT content). He added that its vision is simply to “maximum value to our users.” He said, “As long as our users get maximum benefits, we do too.” He agreed with Li that traditional and new media “need to help each other out,” but at the same time he said, “Through competition we can improve technology.” Zhan: “Many criteria and decisions are made by TV, but new media can be the driving force. The sports media rights market is small in China; we need broad horizons.” The panel was moderated by Shoto Zhu, president of Oceans Marketing, a full-service Beijing-based agency, with past clients that include Euroleague Basketball, the 2013 WTA Guangzhou Open and ManU's 2012 China Tour.