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Cheng: CSL TV rights break the bank but will it make a difference?

Last week, Ti’ao Dongli set a record for Chinese Super League broadcasting rights, paying RMB8 billion for the next five seasons. The figure is mind blowing for a league that could barely be found on television just a few seasons ago, putting it on par with what Super Sports paid for the English Premiership television rights in China.

It will be interesting to see how this will effect the fans. Ti’ao is a growing power in the rights business, having purchased the rights to the Chinese national team and CFA Cup earlier in the year, but they don’t have their own television channel, website, or app like the rest of the competition for the rights. Without that, it will be interesting if they decide to sublease the rights to a television station or if they will go ahead and start their own channel, possibly a pay-per-view channel. Doing the latter would be an attempt to gain back some of their massive investment, however it would likely lead to disaster and very few subscribers.

Currently, the local city or provincial television station in each CSL city provides the cameras and signal for each match, leading to very large differences in quality at grounds across the country, from those who invest heavily in it (like Beijing Television) to those that barely bother (Guizhou and Zhejiang Television are two of the worst offenders). Will Ti’ao try to protect it’s investment by standardizing the process and perhaps upping the quality of the league’s coverage, making it all the more professional?

After the excitement of this season, this is a real opportunity for the league to grow stronger in China, but Ti’ao has to handle the situation wisely or else it can seriously set the league back. The ball’s now in Ti’ao’s hands to do the right thing.

Brandon Chemers aka B. Cheng aka A Modern Lei Feng – is a name which may be familiar to many in the Chinese blogosphere. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief for Wild East Football and is one of the lonely souls writing about Chinese football in English for the last 10 years. Chemers' credentials are second to none – his former blog focused not only on the fortunes of his beloved Beijing Guoan FC, but a multitude of other aspects of Beijing life. He’s deservedly built a reputation in the Chinese blogosphere as an insightful observer of not only Chinese football, but also the wider picture of life in modern China and its many layers. For WEF, beyond writing about Guoan, he often focuses on fan culture and the business of Chinese football.

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