Market Insight: 2015/16 Season European Football Leagues & UEFA Champions League Chinese TV Market Report

Market Insight: 2015/16 Season European Football Leagues & UEFA Champions League Chinese TV Market Report
This report looks at Chinese TV broadcasting of European football leagues and the UEFA Champions League in the 2015/2016 season. The European football leagues studied in here are the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, German’s Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1, and Italy’s Serie A. The reason that only these five leagues were chosen to represent European football leagues is that these five were and are the most recognized leagues in China among fans and under most occasions these five are the only leagues broadcast by Chinese TV media for European league football. The report aims to reflect how these major football leagues and tournament performed in the Chinese TV market.

All Chinese TV channels involved in the broadcasting of the five leagues and the 2015/2016 UEFA Champions League have been considered. Emphasis is given to CCTV 5, the state TV channel and the only Chinese satellite TV channel that entirely focuses on sports. Non-satellite TV channels including more than 40 local sports channels in places of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong and others are also considered.

 The raw data of this report comes from CSM, and covers TV audiences aged 4 years old and above in 35 Chinese cities. All rebroadcasts are considered under most occasions unless where it is specifically noted.

Overall Chinese TV broadcast of European football leagues and the UEFA Champions League

Premier League was the most widely distributed league, being present on 19 TV channels and 4 digital media. The second and third most distributed leagues in terms of number of Chinese media channels were Bundesliga and La Liga respectively. Bundesliga was present on 8 TV channels and 2 digital media. La Liga was present on 6 TV channels and 1 digital media.

Serie A and Ligue 1 experienced a decrease in their respective TV collaborations in the 2015/16 season. Seria A was only broadcast by 1 TV channel and 1 digital media, and Ligue 1 was broadcast on 1 digital media.


For the total broadcasting time on Chinese TV, EPL was reasonably also the No. 1 as it was shown on more TV channels than the other leagues. It was broadcast for 3,605 hours in China in total in the 2015/2016 season. It equals around 90 hours a week. However, Bundesliga did not take the second place in broadcasting time, surpassed by La Liga by around 370 hours.

It is interesting to note that the EPL TV broadcasting time in China actually decreased by 25% compared to the 2014/2015 season, and the Bundesliga broadcasting time actually increased by 66% from the 2014/2015 season. This did not stop the EPL from being the most broadcast European football league on Chinese TV though.

From the fans/Chinese audiences side, which league/tournament was the most watched from a viewership ratings perspective? In another word, which was the most popular? Not an unfamiliar answer -- the EPL …

The average viewer ratings of the five leagues and the 2015/2016 UEFA Champions League showed that the EPL had the highest viewer ratings, 0.32. Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A were after EPL. The reason that UEFA Champions League did not have high viewer ratings is perhaps because the late broadcasting time at night makes it difficult for average audiences to watch.

Another reason we suppose that contributed to EPL’s No.1 viewer ratings is the return of EPL to CCTV 5 in the 2015/2016 season. As we all know, CCTV 5 is the state TV channel that is totally committed to sports and has a high status among Chinese audiences (old generations at least). In the 2015/2016 season EPL added CCTV 5 to its list of TV channels in China. Its ratings increased by 200% compared with the 2014/2015 season.

Which games were the ultimate winners in the 2015/2016 season on Chinese TV? The 2015/2016 UEFA Champions League Final and its Last 16 game on the 28th of February was the winner and the runner-up respectively. The other 8 most watched games were EPL and Bundesliga games. Most of these games were broadcast at around 10pm in China, a good time for Chinese TV audiences.

The situation for each league

When we look at each league and their clubs, broadcasting and viewer ratings share some similarities. TV channels tended to broadcast more games of the traditionally famous and top positioned clubs within each league as well as in the UEFA Champions League. In the EPL, the games of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur were broadcast more than other clubs.

In La Liga, the more preferred clubs by TV channels were Barcelona, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, and Valencia CF. In Serie A, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, and A.S. Roma. In UEFA Champions League, Manchester City, FCB, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Atletico Marid, PSG, etc. Bundesliga was an exception. Its clubs shared similar broadcasting time on Chinese TV channels.

The most watched games on Chinese TV channels in the 2015/2016 season are as below from a viewer ratings perspective.

The English Premier League:


Serie A:



La Liga:

The UEFA Champions League:

As a conclusion, the Premier League led the way in the Chinese TV market. Bundesliga and La Liga were not at the level of the Premier League on Chinese TV, but also had some recognizable presence. As one of the most important league competitions in Europe, UEFA Champions League also had quite important positions among the Chinese audiences/fans. Top and famous clubs as always received much supports from both TV channels and fans in China.

The point of paying attention to the TV presence of the leagues/events in China is that the presence on TV would always be connected with and help with leagues’ commercial performance in a market. Although digital media is very important now and TV is referred to as a traditional media at times, TV is still one of the world’s and China’s major media. Therefore, more exposure and audiences on such a major media means more exposures, more popularity and more commercial value in corresponding markets, which would potentially lead to more commercial developments and benefits.

This could be roughly proved in the five football leagues. The Premier League, La Liga, and Bundesliga are slightly better than the Ligue 1 and Serie A in terms of the number of Chinese sponsors with teams. For example, just in the case of the Premier League, there have been a few new Chinese partners recently, such as Man City’s PAK and UBTech. In La Liga teams, you could easily name a few Chinese partners: Huawei, Suning, Oppo, Lvyuan, Qbao, etc. However, there was not much news on Chinese sponsors of Ligue 1 and Serie A teams. UEFA Champions League is an exception because they only allow for a few sponsors on a global level.

For sure TV presence is not the only thing that could decide a league’s commercial value and performance in a market, but it certainly could not be overlooked or neglected either.

This article is specifically written for Soccerex based on the original report. To read the original diagrams and tables in the report, contact Yutang Sports and Soccerex. To ask any questions please contact Yutang Sports. Asian football is on the agenda at the Soccerex Forum in Doha, Qatar, 5th-6th December. For more information on the Asian Forum please visit

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