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Commercializing Kung Fu (2)

By Li Zhenyu (People's Daily Online)

13:19, September 18, 2012

The WMA has been trying to tap into the Chinese martial arts' commercial potential. (Photo courtesy of CCTV)

Brand New Model

"WMA is the first professional sports league in China with a complete industrial chain," says Ruan Wei, Managing Director of CCTV Sports Entertainment Co., Ltd, the company that runs the WMA.

Although China adopted the notion of professional sport from the West and brought in the league system as early as more than 20 years ago, a professional sport in essence that is built entirely upon the system of free market economy has yet to come into existence, as China's sports federations, which own their respective sports league such as Chinese Super League (CSL) and Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) etc., are all State-run.

"For the industry to reach its full potential, China's sport must free itself from the centrally planned regime and be centered around independent, professional sports league as well as develop its own industrial chain," Chen Shaofeng, director of the Sport Industry Research Centre of China told this journalist.

The WMA brings a unique business model to the table in that the league is owned by CCTV and run by its affiliate company, an entity that is independent from the federation of the General Administration of Sport. CCTV holds all the privileges, from hosting right to intellectual property. Plus the league owner and its clubs are equal entities, belonging to a community of interest, rather than of administrative relations.

Clubs possess the athletes under contracts and focus on talent selection and cultivation, designed to produce the best fighters for the league. Some clubs intent on building their own Wushu schools, with the purpose of expanding their talent pool as well as making money off it.

"Many parents and students applied to attend our school because of the WMA," a club owner said. "We'll set up our movie studio, and incorporate club, school, and studio to forge an industrial chain."

"In terms of its business model, the WMA takes a step forward," Chen commented. "The WMA is actually 'a Chinese man in a Western costume'."

Conversely, taking a glance at the big picture, China's entire sports community, by this token, has been a blond covered in Chinese outfit.

To date, most of the best sports programmings on CCTV have come from abroad, such as NBA games, which the network has been airing for more than 20 years.

"No sports fans in any other countries are as poor as those in China, in the sense that they depend so much on consuming sports content from foreign lands," Ruan said.

According to Jiang Heping, director of CCTV Sports, 80 percent of the first run on CCTV's sports channel, which accounts for over 80 percent of the audience market, relies on copyright purchases, and that of the domestic events only take up a tiny proportion. More than half of the channel's budget is spent on purchasing copyrights of overseas events every year.

"China abounds in cultural resources," said Chen. "What the nation should import are business models, not cultures, in the way that the WMA does."

The author is the Asia-based contributor for the Ultimate MMA Magazine.

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