World Wrestling Entertainment’s channel WWE Network will be available in China from today.
WWE Network will launch exclusively on PPTV, a Chinese video streaming website, as a subscription service featuring all WWE live events, including WrestleMania.
PPTV is controlled by Suning Commerce, one of the largest non-government retailers in China, with 1,600 stores in 600 cities across China, Hong Kong and Japan.
Last year, England’s Premier League sold its television rights in China to PPTV for about £564m in its biggest-ever overseas sale.
Given the popularity of the pro-wrestling sport-cum-soap opera in China, PPTV’s latest deal with World Wrestling Entertainment is a response to the rising consumer demand.
China’s major cities are home to more than 140m fans of the wrestling programme, according to a report commissioned by the WWE.
Michelle Wilson, WWE’s chief revenue & marketing officer said in a statement:
PPTV is a tremendous partner and has been key in helping us engage with WWE fans in China and further establishing our brand in this important market. With this launch, WWE Network is now available in every market, reaching more than 180 countries around the world, delivering all our premium live events and an archive of action-packed, family-friendly entertainment that has thrilled WWE audiences for years.
Only a minority watch the action legally via TV agreements in just nine of China’s 33 provincial-level administrative divisions, while the rest stream the programme on pirate websites.
Wilson told the Wall Street Journal:
We found out that the content was being consumed on digital sites hosting pirated content.
WWE programming reaches more than 650m homes worldwide, and is available in 20 languages.