LAS VEGAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Le Sports and Major League Baseball announced a wide-ranging partnership which results in China’s top internet-based eco-sports company becoming an official strategic partner of MLB in China mainland, Hong Kong and Macau, for a three-year period beginning in January of 2016. The strategic alliance, which is highlighted by live streaming of MLB games in China for the first time, was announced today by Baseball Commissioner Robert D. Manfred, Jr., MLB Chief Operating Officer Tony Petitti, MLB Senior Vice President of Growth, Strategy and International Chris Park, Le Sports Chairman Fei Gao, Le Sports CEO Zhenjian Lei and Le Sports Vice President of Strategy Hang Yu here during a press conference that was streamed to Le Sports subscribers in China.
As part of the first mass market MLB media agreement in China, Le Sports will hold exclusive media rights in China to broadcast 125 MLB games per season, along with Mandarin-language MLB programming, through its internet platform, mobile applications, and OTT Devices. The 125-game lineup includes: four HD games per week during the regular season (96 games in total), 20 HD Postseason games, the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, and all World Series games. In addition to live streaming games, Le Sports will have rights to rebroadcast those games through video on demand.
Lei said, “By working with MLB in China over the past three years on events, we saw just how appealing the league is to Chinese families, and how popular the games and MLB players have become to young sports fans in China. We are excited to expand and extend our partnership with MLB.”
Le Sports will also invest significant marketing resources and leverage its unique digital device ecosystem to promote baseball. Lei added, “We are thrilled to bring even more baseball to Chinese fans as this sport becomes so much more popular to the Chinese people.”
“This historic partnership with Le Sports exemplifies Major League Baseball’s diversified approach to serving international communities,” said Manfred. “We are delighted to showcase Major League games in Mandarin throughout the distinctive, ever-growing ecosystem of Le Sports devices and apps. China is a crucial frontier for the development of baseball. Our new, prominent place on Le Sports platforms both reaffirms and expands our commitment to growing the game in China.”
Besides broadcasting games, Le Sports will establish an online community for 30 MLB clubs and become a central portal for Chinese baseball fans to connect more deeply with their favorite teams, from supporting MLB live events to merchandise purchases. Le Sports will continue as a co-producer of MLB Perfect Pitch, a baseball reality show. Le Sports also will broadcast MLB Beijing University Baseball League and MLB Shanghai University Baseball League opening and final games as well as MLB Play Ball! Youth Program games.
“Over the last decade, MLB has worked steadily to lay a lasting foundation for baseball in China,” said Petitti. “We have made remarkable progress developing uniquely Chinese baseball content, enriching the curricula of local schools, and mentoring the first generation of top-flight homegrown players. This partnership is an encouraging inflection point in the story of MLB China. Le Sports is an invaluable media platform for global sports brands and will enhance all aspects of our presence in China.”
Gao said, “Baseball is a sport of ‘coming home,’ which matches our traditional Chinese family values perfectly. MLB has focused on working through local education and communities to influence more youth to play baseball. We will provide an enhanced viewing experience to Chinese fans, and encourage more families and young people to play and enjoy this amazing sport. I am excited to join forces with MLB. We also will work with MLB to provide fans with events, merchandise and other opportunities to enhance their enjoyment of baseball.”
The partnership with MLB is the latest significant achievement of Le Sports, and adds to other exclusive deals, including Wimbledon from 2016-2018, the English Premier League in Hong Kong from 2016-2019, as well as the five-year global partnership with ATP.
About Le Sports
Le Sports is China’s leading Internet-based eco-sports company known for its unique business model spanning event operation, content platform, smart devices, and value-added service. With its motto of “Your Participation, Our Goal,” Le Sports strives to create a sports system that covers the whole industrial chain, integrate sports resources from around the world, enhance the integration of technologies into sports and promote an overall upgrading of the sports industry. In March 2014, Le Sports was officially established into an eco-sports company covering the entire industrial chain. Le Sports completed its Series A funding in May 2015 by raising RMB 800 million, boosting the company’s valuation to RMB 2.8 billion. Series B funding was initiated in September 2015.
With its comprehensive content platform, Le Sports now hold media rights over 200 sports events covering 10,000 matches. With its abundant sports rights, Le Sports is now known as the biggest sports media empire in the industry. Le Sports launched its first smart device, the Super Bike, in August 2015, with many more products already in the research and development stage. The company continues to offer a variety of services, including O2O training, gaming, e-commerce, ticketing and more. As an event organizer, Le Sports introduced the International Champions Cup (ICC) into China, oversaw the operation and promotion of the Women’s Super League and mass participating events including several marathon and road running scheme.
About MLB in China
MLB opened its office in China in 2007 and since then, three MLB Development Centers (MLB DC) have been launched in Wuxi, Changzhou and Nanjing. Itchy Xu, an MLB DC student-athlete, was signed by Baltimore Orioles in July of 2015. Liwei Huang and Aaron Chen (all MLB DC student-athletes) participated in China National Baseball Team training.
MLB Play Ball! Program covers nearly 100 elementary schools in five cities in China. In the last nine years, more than 600,000 elementary school students learned baseball through this program; MLB College Club has 82 members among universities across China. MLB Beijing League and MLB Shanghai League have been held each spring since 2012.
MLB Baseball Park road show travels to major Chinese metropolitan areas each year and attracts more than 3.5 million participants annually; MLB Perfect Pitch reality shows in 2014 and 2015 attracted more than 200,000 participants and millions of viewers on Letv.
MLB currently works with eight local broadcasters to live-broadcast MLB Jewel Events (Opening Series, All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, World Series); 25 episodes of a Mandarin-language baseball program; and co-produced 250 episodes of MLB Perfect Pitch with Le Sports in 2014 and 2015.