Asia’s Sports Rights and Media Markets Set to Be Reshaped as They Recover – Report

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Cheyne Gately for Variety

The sports rights and media businesses in the Asia-Pacific region are experiencing a post-COVID rebound that could continue at 6% annually until 2026. But the past domination of broadcast TV is being eroded.

The “Asia Pacific Sports Media 2022” report published by consultancy firm Media Partners Asia forecasts regional sports revenues in TV and online video rising from $6.7 billion in 2021 to $8.9 billion by 2026, after a 15% contraction during the pandemic in 2020. Sports media revenues grew more than 30% in 2021 and are projected to grow by 11% in 2022.

At the rights level, sports rights costs are forecast to grow 5.6% in 2022 to reach $6.5 billion and at a compound average of 4% per year between 2021-26 to reach $7.4 billion by 2026. Soccer leads the sports rights market in APAC, driven by the English Premier League.

According to MPA, sports rights for the Asia Pacific contracted by $1.2 billion in 2020 while sports media revenues fell by $0.9 billion, reflecting the impact of COVID lockdowns and other restrictions which hugely hampered sports – and live sports especially. “Rights values crashed in China in 2020 while revenue contraction was marked in Australia and Japan,” MPA said.

The firm says that the main driver of recovery will be consumer and advertiser demand for live sports across integrated streaming entertainment and sports platforms, along with TV networks in key geographic markets. It expects rights values will return to pre-pandemic levels, “surpassing the absolute value of rights registered in 2018” this year. In 2021, sports media revenue growth was especially significant in Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, led by Indonesia and Thailand.

“Sports remains vital in Asia Pacific as a tactical weapon to build brand and market share and in certain instances, pricing power. However premium tier-1 rights generally remain loss leaders or breakeven bets, especially in the case of marquee football and cricket properties,” said Media Partners Asia executive director Vivek Couto. “Customers continue to churn to: integrated entertainment and sports streaming platforms; pure-play sports streaming platforms; and piracy. Japan and India remain the two largest markets for sports on broadcast TV.

The acquisition of Fox by Disney, and the subsequent breakup of Fox Sports, has had an impact on the pan-regional sports broadcasting market. It allowed the launch of SpoTV, a Korea-based sports broadcaster owned by Eclat, with key sports properties across Southeast Asia. But the break-up of Fox’s sports rights and the growth of local platforms (with EPL rights in some instances) meant that the overall value of the pan-regional sports media market contracted and hit a low in 2021. Since then, beIN, which has retained some key properties post pandemic, and SpoTV have driven a recovery.