Letv Sports, the sports affiliate of Chinese online video streamer Leshi Internet Information & Technology Corp., has raised a hefty 800 million yuan (US$128.8 million) Series A funding, valuing the video-streaming business at 2.8 billion yuan (around US$451.1 million).

This round went through A and A+ periods, luring investments from two of the richest men in China. Wanda Investment, the venture capital fund supported by Chinese billionaire Wang Jianlin, leads in period A, and Alibaba’s Jack Ma-backed Yunfeng Capital leads in A+ financing, followed by Fortune Link, Prometheus Capital and funding from numerous individuals.

Following this deal, the stock ownership structure of Letv Sports has restructured its shareholder structure, with Leshi Internet Information and Technology Corporation’s stock dropping to 10% and Lele Interactive becoming the new majority shareholder.

Letv has evolved from a web page on Leshi’s platform in 2012 to a separate entity that streams live sporting events. Letv Sports claim that 121 sports events in 12 categories and 4000 matches will be broadcasted live on average every year, covering various events including football, basketball, tennis, golf and marathon events.

Letv Sports is most commonly known as a sports video streaming platform, but the company is shifting toward a new business model by establishing an ecosystem that features sports event management, content, smart hardware and value-added services.

In terms of content output, Letv Sports will improve the watching experience by providing users with multiple choices of 6-way signal and 4-way interpretation. For events management, Letv Sports has acquired the operations right for a handful of exclusive events.

The company also disclosed plans to develop sports cameras in addition to super bicycles. As for value-added services, the management have made a complete description of the O2O and payment services in the sports-related business, such as sports retail, sports training, sports gaming and lottery services.

Leshi and Alibaba have been competing in various businesses previously, and this deal is the first time that Leshi-backed entities have receive funding from Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba.

Since Alibaba initiated its aggressive expansion plan into the media and entertainment arena in 2013, the e-commerce giant has invested in various entities within the industry including media IPs, film and TV production, online ticket sales, digital music and digital publishing. The integration of the sports streaming business will compliment the layout of Alibaba’s entertainment ecosystem.

Image credit: NetEase

Emma Lee (Li Xin) was TechNode's e-commerce and new retail reporter until June 2022, when she moved to Sixth Tone to cover technology and consumption. Get in touch with her via lixin@sixthtone.com or Twitter.

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