Chinese private equity firm Orient Hontai "agreed to buy a majority stake in Spanish sports rights group Imagina" for $1B, the latest deal from "deep-pocketed Chinese investors to transform the Asian country" into a global football "powerhouse," according to González & Ruano of REUTERS. Imagina, "usually just known as Mediapro after the name of one of its subsidiaries," has the rights to distribute La Liga. Imagina Founder & Chair Jaume Roures said that Orient Hontai "had reached a preliminary deal with three of Imagina’s shareholders" to buy a 54% stake. Roures said that the deal "still had to be authorized by the Chinese government, which has cracked down on overseas football investments in recent months," though he hoped the operation could be closed in early '18. He said, "The deal has been made. We hope to close it during the first quarter of 2018." Orient Hontai entered into exclusive talks with Imagina’s shareholders in May, "scooping a dozen other bidders," including French media group Vivendi, Dalian Wanda Group and Liberty Media. The selling shareholders are Spanish private equity firm Torreal, which holds 23% of the share capital, Mexican broadcaster Televisa, which owns 19%, and one of the firm's founders, Gerard Romy, who has 12% (REUTERS, 10/17). The AFP reported a Torreal spokesperson said, "Negotiations are taking place, but there is still nothing signed" (AFP, 10/21).
Twitter has renewed its partnership with the Victoria Racing Club and extended its deal with the VRC and Seven Network to "include additional races and live content," according to Paul Wallbank of MUMBRELLA. Twitter, Channel Seven and the VRC will also offer live streams of Victoria Derby Day, Kennedy Oaks Day, and Emirates Stakes Day "through their websites and apps." The live stream and highlight clips on Twitter will also include advertising packages with "TV-style ad spots and pre-rolls." Content sponsors will include Tabcorp, Lexus and AAMI. As part of the deal, "Twitter will also feature additional premium highlights" from racing carnival, including fashion, celebrities and a range of behind-the-scenes streams. Twitter Australia Managing Dir Suzy Nicoletti said, "Live streaming the race that stops a nation was a huge success for us in 2016, with double the number of tweets on the previous year, and #MelbourneCup trending number one in 12 countries" (MUMBRELLA, 10/23).
Cricket Hong Kong is hoping its new partnership with Cricket Australia and Accenture to boost digital content "will help to re-establish the Hong Kong Sixes as a world-class event and attract long-term sponsors," according to Nazvi Careem of the SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST. As digital and video partners, Accenture and Cricket Australia will deliver the first official Cricket Hong Kong mobile app, which will be available for free starting Friday on iOS and Android. The app will "provide fans inside and outside the ground with video on demand," exclusive interviews and the latest news about this weekend’s Sixes and next year’s Hong Kong T20 Blitz. It is part of CHK's "Sixes 2.0" vision and Cricket HK Dir Jonathan Cummings said that the strategic tie-ups "are all about ensuring the long-term future of the Sixes, which is being revived after a five-year hiatus because of a lack of sponsorship." Cummings said, "This is just the first stage. We talked before about taking the first step on a path to a new level of content and innovation for Hong Kong cricket events. This will be taken even further for the next Blitz and again further for the 2018 Sixes." Fans at the Kowloon Cricket Club will also be able to make use of virtual reality cricket offerings, "such as experiencing what it feels like to face a 150km fast bowler" (SCMP, 10/23).
SportsBusiness Journal has acquired a minority stake in The Esports Observer, a Berlin-based online publisher that covers esports business news, operates industry events and provides marketplace data. Along with the investment, the two publishers expect to collaborate on news coverage, commercial matters and conferences, execs said. In the deal, SBJ parent American City Business Journals has an option to make additional investments in the future. Financial terms were not made public. "It's clear to all of us at SportsBusiness Journal and to our readers who work and invest in traditional sports that esports is an exciting and significant development," said ACBJ President & CEO Whitney Shaw in a statement. "This partnership allows SBJ to extend its authority and credibility into esports." Founded in '15, The Esports Observer is one of several websites created in recent years to benefit from the rise of competitive video gaming and the flow of investor and brand money into the space. It is a portfolio company of BITKRAFT Esports Ventures network, led by ESL Founder Jens Hilgers, who also is an owner of the esports team G2. With esports competitive scenes flourishing in North America, Europe and Asia, a trans-Atlantic partnership will prove valuable, execs said. BITKRAFT has an office in L.A., but The Esports Observer is run from Berlin. It employs eight people and publishes a daily and weekly email newsletter. Distribution figures were not made public. "This partnership will strengthen our ability to provide coverage in the U.S. and organize conferences in tandem with SBJ and its sister company in London, Leaders," said Esports Observer CEO Christopher Hana.
ESPORTS COVERAGE GROWING: Online coverage of general gaming proliferates on a wide range of websites, YouTube commentators' pages and Reddit, but original reporting on esports business news is handled by a much smaller group, including ESPN.com, which launched a dedicated vertical in '16. SportsBusiness Journal has been covering esports as a dedicated beat since early '16 and aggregates esports content in both THE DAILY and SBD Global. It is also producing the Lagardère Sports Esports Rising conference Nov. 9 in Marina del Rey, Calif. Teresa Walsh of Access Media Advisors advised ACBJ on the transaction.
The National Rugby League partnered with Fox Sports Australia via a direct-to-consumer int'l streaming product, to be known as Watch NRL. The new int'l streaming service will be available for round one of the '18 NRL season. Fans will also be able to view the State of Origin Series, Australian men's and women's int'l matches played at home and Super Cup matches (NRL).
Lagardère Sports announced it signed an exclusive deal with esports company RFRSH Entertainment. The agency will represent the media rights for global tournament Counter-Strike (CS:GO) BLAST Pro Series. The series will be launched by RFRSH Entertainment in Copenhagen in November and the tournament will continue in major cities across the globe, returning to Copenhagen in Nov. '18 (Lagardère Sports).
ESPN's social responsibility program will expand outside of Latin America in November when Bangalore's Bandepalya community will receive a new, multi-functional sport court. The space is being built in collaboration with the community and is supported by int'l sports for development organizations love.fútbol and Magic Bus (ESPN).
Sunday's Ligue 1 match between Olympique de Marseille and Paris St. Germain, broadcast exclusively on Canal+, drew an average audience of 2.57 million viewers. With a peak audience of 3.3 million, the match figures translated to a 41.5% market share, and almost 800,000 users streamed the game live on Mycanal (SPORTBUZZ BUSINESS, 10/23).