X Games heading to China as new collaborative model pays dividends
ESPN, the US cable sports broadcaster, has struck a multi-year deal with REnextop Entertainment, a leading action sports platform in China, to take its X Games action sports series to China for the first time.
Under the terms of the deal, both a summer and winter X Games will be held in China this year, the first time that the two editions have been staged within the same country in the same year.
The first summer X Games China event will take place in Shanghai in late May, with host cities now being sought for the winter edition, slated for late November to early December.
As is customary with the X Games events, the live sport will be accompanied by musical performances, art installations and a festival experience.
Tim Reed, ESPN X Games vice-president, said: “China is a significant global market and represents an exciting opportunity to connect the X Games brand to a country with such profound history, culture and a love for sports.”
Lillian Chen, chief executive of REnextop, added: “We’re proud to work with ESPN to bring the X Games to China and produce world-class events showcasing the top action sports athletes in the world as well as the music, art and culture that connects so well with the youth and sports lifestyle. This is truly a unique opportunity to grow X Games in China, a country with a proven track record of embracing big sporting and cultural events.”
The X Games China event is part of ESPN's latest attempt to globalise the series.
The broadcaster previously ran a global calendar for the X Games, but announced in late 2013 that it would concentrate on the US market, saying it could no longer continue with events in Barcelona, Munich, Foz do Iguaca and Tignes because "the overall economics of these events do not provide a sustainable future path."
However, it has since staged three editions of X Games Norway in Oslo and last October organised the inaugural X Games Australia in Sydney after deciding to partner with TV2, the commercial broadcaster in Norway, and Seven, the commercial network in Australia, respectively, for the local events, rather than handle all production - a costly exercise - itself.
The international events sit alongside the main annual X Games in USA, in Aspen, Colorado (winter) and in Minneapolis, Minnesota (summer).
Speaking at the Sports Performance Data and Fan Engagement Summit in San Francisco a year ago, Neil Bandoni, director of digital video strategy, ESPN X Games, said the company had stumbled upon a commercially viable model to globalising the series.
He said: “The Global X Games with us producing all the content ourselves was just not sustainable.
“We changed that with X Games in Oslo and will replicate it for the first X Games in Sydney. We want to get the brand out there internationally and this model, which essentially involves a licensing fee with all the production risk residing where the event is being held, works.”