Analysis: International sports win largest audiences in China, India

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Research from Ampere Analysis reveals that international sports leagues outperform domestic competitions in two of the world’s largest markets – China and India. These markets have recently been added to Ampere’s own consumer research service, now covering 41,000 internet users in 20 markets. Although major international leagues have already identified and targeted these countries, both China and India have unique traits in their sports preferences and audiences which continue to present significant opportunities for savvy rights owners and media players.

Indian respondents showed the highest relative interest in sport of any of the 20 markets surveyed in this research (41 per cent on average across all markets). More than half (53 per cent) of respondents enjoy watching sport. Chinese respondents are at the other end of the spectrum with only 32 per cent indicating that they like to watch sport. Soccer is the most popular sport for the vast majority of survey respondents.

Basketball is the most popular sport in China

China is the only country in the research where basketball is the most popular sport, followed by soccer and the Olympics. NBA ranks as the favourite sports competition in China, followed by the English Premier League (EPL). China’s domestic leagues such as CSL (Chinese FA Super League) and CBA (Chinese Basketball Association) do not appear in the top 10 competitions by interest level, and the number of sports fans prepared to pay to watch them is lower than for overseas leagues. China is the only country where table tennis is among the top sports.

Chinese sports fans are younger than the national average – 65 per cent are 44 years’ old or younger. While 33 per cent of Chinese sports fans are willing to pay to watch the NBA, only 7 per cent are willing to pay to watch the domestic basketball league. It’s the same trend for the Chinese soccer league – only 8 per cent of sports fans are willing to pay to view.

Cricket dominates the sports rankings in India

90 per cent of Indian sports fans enjoy watching cricket, so it’s not surprising that cricket dominates sports preferences in India, followed by tennis and badminton. India’s own leading cricket competition the IPL is outperformed by the international leagues though – the ICC Cricket World Cup and ICC World Twenty20.  Nonetheless, while it may be ranked third, the IPL is one of the richest non-soccer leagues on the planet, with domestic and global TV rights acquired by Star India for USD$2.4bn for the 2018-22 season (or USD$480m per season). IPL fans not only take more services from Star’s premium channel, Star Sports Select than the national average, but also over-index for other media content services including Netflix and Amazon.

Demographically speaking, Indian sports fans are slightly older than the national average and have a higher income, making them an attractive market for sports rights owners and media players alike.

Alexios Dimitropoulos, Senior Analyst at Ampere Analysis said: “Given their sheer scale, China and India are key markets for the world’s big sporting leagues who are looking to expand their reach and grow their overseas revenues – both in terms of media rights and merchandise sales. Many of the globe’s largest sports leagues have already targeted these countries, but there is certainly more consumer appetite for competitions, and a willingness to pay to watch them. In China the NBA and the EPL already boast two of the country’s largest TV rights contracts, and that’s why both competitions tour China and play league and friendly matches locally. However, with such strongly preferred sports in each market, international leagues entering these two markets for the first time outside of the traditional favourites will need to work hard to develop a following.”


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