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Alibaba’s Youku to Stream World Cup Soccer in China

Youku, the video streaming platform controlled by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, has partnered with China Central Television (CCTV) to stream the upcoming soccer World Cup.

CCTV is the traditional broadcast home of World Cup soccer in China. The deal with Youku covers live streaming of 64 matches as well as off-game sidelights. Youku will be the only one of the big three streaming players to have the competition. Last summer Youku claimed 325 million monthly active users.

The quadrennial soccer tournament is one of the world’s biggest media events and, in many countries, causes schedulers to avoid it or run counter-programming. In countries with large fan bases for soccer, and where competition matches are broadcast in the evening, there is sometimes a negative impact on theatrical box office as well.

The competition this year involves 32 teams. It is being held in venues around Russia from June 14 to July 15.

China boast tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of soccer fans, and the national government is keen to make the country a force in the sport at a global level. At local level, Chinese soccer teams teams have spent vast sums attracting leading international players and managerial talent, but the Chinese national team consistently struggles and will not be represented in Russia this year.

Dalian Wanda, which has expanded from property into entertainment and sport, signed a deal in 2016 to be a partner of soccer governing body FIFA. That gave Wanda the highest level of sponsorship, and marketing rights to all FIFA competitions, including the next four World Cup tournaments.

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