Alibaba’s Youku Gains FIFA World Cup New Media Broadcasting Rights

Youku Inc. announced on Tuesday that it has joined the new media broadcasting of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia to mainland Chinese audience.

Youku gained online broadcasting access to the international sporting spectacle by becoming another “official new media partner” of China Central Television (CCTV), China’s state-owned television broadcaster.

One week ago, Migu Video, a subsidiary of China Mobile, the Chinese state-owned telecommunication company, announced that it has become CCTV’s official new media partner for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Before the two companies’ announcements, CCTV claimed it would not sell out its new media broadcast rights.

The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) has granted CCTV the exclusive media rights for broadcasting all FIFA events over the next five years, according to Xinhua News Agency, which include the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France and the 2021 Confederations Cup.

Youku’s announcement comes in two weeks before the start of the international matches which will take place between June 14 and July 15 in Russia. The new media partners will be live broadcasting all 64 matches of the World Cup in high definition on their respective online platforms.

FIFA world cup Russia 2018
FIFA world cup Russia 2018

Youku, meaning “what’s best and cool” in Chinese, was bought by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. for $3.7 billion in 2015. The game viewers can also watch the football matches through TV boxes and projectors from Tmall, Alibaba‘s e-commerce platform.

Among China’s three dominating online video platforms, Youku is the only video hosting service that gained access to the quadrennial event. The other two are Tencent Video and iQiyi.

The 2014 World Cup in Brazil drew an Chinese television audience of 250 million, about 19.8% of TV population. The live matches drew an average audience of 9.7 million viewers, with the final match attracting the maximum number of 29.7 million viewers, according to an official FIFA report.

These numbers are expected to increase this year due to a more manageable time difference, despite the repeated failures of Team China to quality for the World Cup since after 2002.