Alibaba and Suning to explore sports media development through investment deal

Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has today (Thursday) announced a strategic investment in Suning Sports, the sports unit of conglomerate Suning, with the two parties set to explore joint activities between their respective media operations.

As part of the agreement, Youku, the video streaming platform owned by Alibaba, will team up with the PP Sports division of Chinese new media company PPTV, which is controlled by Suning. In a statement, Suning said the two parties will seek to jointly create a Youku PP sports platform.

The two companies have a wider business relationship dating back to 2015. Mi Wei, vice-president of Suning Sports, said: “The reason why Suning and Ali can once again reach cooperation in the new field is that the two sides have a high degree of understanding of the sports industry.

“Suning has a complete ecological layout of the sports industry and Ali has a huge range of entertainment users. The two sides can form complementary advantages. In the future, further deep cooperation in the pan-entertainment eco-industrial chain will bring infinite commercial imagination and new business opportunities.”

The China Money Network website said Alibaba has joined with US investment banking firm Goldman Sachs to lead a Series A funding round worth about $600m (€511.1m) in Suning.

It added that other investors in the round include Chinese property developer Evergrande Group, Yunfeng Capital, Chinese AI company Sensetime, Sports Industrial Fund of Zhejiang Province and Jiangsu Province, as well as the overseas subsidiaries of Chinese banks CCB International, Minsheng Bank International and ABC International. Suning is already said to have commenced a Series B round.

Youku held rights to the 2018 Fifa World Cup. Under a sublicensing deal with the national team football tournament’s rights holder in China, state broadcaster CCTV, Youku live-streamed 64 matches as well as providing additional content surrounding the event, which concluded in Russia on Sunday.

Earlier this month, PP Sports acquired television and online rights to the Bundesliga, the top division of German club football. The five-season deal between the Bundesliga International arm of the German Football League (DFL) and PP Sports will run from 2018-19 to 2022-23.

PP Sports will hold the Bundesliga’s broadcasting and distribution rights for television in China with state broadcaster CCTV, and exclusively for internet, new media, OTT services and other media platforms.