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China technology

Online streamers score after a surge in Chinese viewers during the 2018 World Cup football tournament

Online video service operators are spending huge sums to acquire exclusive videos and produce self-made content

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 July, 2018, 1:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2018, 10:23am

Two Chinese online streaming sites that paid for the rights to broadcast games from the Fifa World Cup in Russia on mobile devices have revealed huge viewer numbers, indicating the level of football fever in the country and despite China not having a national team at the tournament.

Youku Tudou, an online streaming platform that competes with Tencent Video, a unit of Tencent Holdings, and Baidu-backed iQiyi in China, said more than 180 million unique users – or around one seventh of China’s 1.3 billion population – watched the game on its mobile apps during the one-month tournament period. The company added that the final between France and Croatia drew 24 million unique viewers, double the number registered for the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia on June 14.

Migu Video, an online video site operated by the country’s largest telecommunications network operator China Mobile, said that its World Cup match broadcasts were viewed 4.3 billion times in total during the period, while the final game alone was viewed 200 million times.

Online video service operators are spending huge sums to acquire exclusive videos and produce self-made content to compete for fast growth in the country’s online video market, which is forecast to reach 113 billion yuan (US$16.9 billion) and 146 billion yuan in revenues in 2018 and 2019 respectively, from 86 billion yuan in 2017, according to, the online statistics portal.

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Both Youku and Migu Video did not disclose the amount of money they spent to acquire the broadcasting rights distributed by China Central Television Station – the state-backed TV network that owns the sole broadcasting rights of all Fifa games in China between 2018 and 2022. A Beijing News report suggested that Youku and Migu Video had spent 1.6 billion yuan and 1 billion yuan respectively for the broadcast rights, citing unnamed sources.

Alibaba Group Holding-backed Youku, the third-largest online video-streaming operator in China, saw its daily active users (DAU) exceed 100 million in the period from the opening of the 2018 World Cup on June 14 to June 23, according to internet data services provider QuestMobile.

Market leaders Tencent Video and iQiyi did not obtain broadcast rights for the tournament and reported 137 million and 126 million DAU, respectively, as of the end of 2017.

New York-listed Alibaba is the parent company of the South China Morning Post.