The Global Poker League (GPL) reported that it has signed a long-term strategic partnership with China's leading digital sports media platform, Sina Sports.
Under the terms of the deal, Sina Sports becomes the Official Digital Media Partner of the GPL, and will add a poker channel to its already extensive list of coverage. Both the GPL and Sina Sports are now working together to ensure the vast Chinese audience receives comprehensive localized coverage of the GPL, including streaming of more than 400 hours of GPL events.
A press release by Sina Sports states that the partnership is a landmark deal for poker in China, and that the GPL is not a gambling league, but identifies itself as an eSport, focussing purely on competition and interaction with fans of the franchises.
The GPL already has strong ties with China thanks to GPL President Alex Dreyfus securing funding for the GPL from Beijing-based VC company Ceyuan Capital and Hong Kong’s Head and Shoulders Capital, plus the creation of the Hong Kong Stars franchise, which is captained by Celina Lin.
Plans are afoot for a new GPL franchise during the 2017 season, one based in Mainland China, further enhancing the GPL's position in the most-populous country in the world.
“The League’s first Asia-based franchise is the Hong Kong Stars, who have loaded their roster with some of the best poker players from China," said Dreyfus of the partnership with Sina Sports. "This is exciting for us because we want locally relevant standouts of the game involved alongside poker's global stars — it helps expose this sport to new audiences, such as those in China, that may be less familiar with the poker world."
Sina Sports' General Manager and Senior Vice President of Sina.com, Arthur Wei, was equally as enthusiastic as Dreyfus about where the partnership will take the GPL.
“The time is right for a league like GPL to enter China," said Wei. "Already, Chinese people are used to poker-style games through playing traditional Chinese card games, and are looking for more diverse ways to play. Not only will GPL attract new sports fans, but it also will attract a following from Chinese people that may not consider themselves traditional sports fans. I believe that Sina Sports will be looked at for years to come as a visionary media company for having brought GPL into China."
Established in 1998, Sina Sports is China's leading digital sports media platform. Shortly after its launch, Sina Sports became the official online website in China for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and has since been the official internet partner in China for the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics.
In 2002, Sina Games was the exclusive internet partner of the Chinese soccer team during the FIFA World Cup, and was the first to provide a live-streaming feed for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Sina Games licence and partners more than 90 sports properties including the UEFA Champions League, the English Premier League, NFL, UFC, MUTV, which help it reach an audience of 15 million web users and 26 million mobile users each and every day.
Esports in China is a huge business with hundreds of millions of Chinese gamers playing and watching sSports games such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, StarCraft II, League of Legends, FIFA Online, and Dota 2. A report by Niko Partners in February 2016 revealed revenues from Chinese gamers will exceed $26 billion in 2016, while research firm Newzoo estimates China has 1.2 million eSports enthusiasts. If the GPL and Sina Games partnership helps expose poker to this market, we may be talking about the "GPL Effect" and not the "Moneymaker Effect" in years to come.