NHL Views First Foray Into China As A Success, Plans To Return Next Year
NHL Exec VP/Media & Int’l Strategy David Proper said that the league views its efforts last month in China "as a success," according to Ian Thomas of SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL. Two games between the L.A. Kings and Vancouver Canucks in Beijing and Shanghai "drew more than 23,000 fans combined." The NHL, in conjunction with the teams and the NHL Players' Association, held a "fan fest in Beijing, and youth clinics in both cities." It also held an event with the U.S. Embassy called "Hockey Night," a 50-minute program featuring "hockey activities and demonstrations that was streamed online in China and had more than 4.6 million video starts." Additionally, a livestreamed practice for the two teams "had 2.6 million video starts." Proper said that those numbers "may be modest" by Chinese streaming viewership standards, but they were "well above" what the league expected. Proper added that the NHL's Chinese-specific social media platforms saw more than 300% "follower growth" during the week of the games, and an additional 100% "increase since the games were held." Proper said that the league "viewed its first step into the country as just that: the first part of a multiyear strategy that will evolve." The events "did not generate revenue" for the league, but local promoters and organizers "took on all cost risks." Meanwhile, the NHL and NHLPA met last week to "discuss the league's international strategy." On the table are "potential games in China in the coming years during the preseason," as well as playing "more regular season games outside of North America." The NHL will "hold two games in Sweden in November." The league "aims to host at least 15 clinics" in China in the coming year. To educate fans, plans call for "viewing parties in major cities aided by the NHL's Chinese rights holders, CCTV and Tencent." And through parent company AEG, the Kings have "built a two-person social media team in China that runs the team's WeChat and Weibo channels" (SPORTSBUSINESS JOURNAL, 10/16 issue).