Reports > Insights into Global Sports Apps in 2016
Insights into Global Sports Apps in 2016
2016 - 10 - 21


The 2016 Olympic Games will be held in Brazil on August 5. As the national team embarks on the journey to the Olympics, is your passion for sports ignited already? Considered to be a year of sports, this year features world-class events such as UEFA Euro and the Olympic Games, and is expected to set off waves of craze for sports. Under such a favorable context and among the most sought after IPs in the industry, isn't it the time for sports apps to boom?

Recently, the "typhoon and pig" story has sparked heated discussions in the world of mobile Internet. As live broadcasting and personalized news are frequently discussed, some even said that "there are so many pigs that even the typhoon cannot move them". Currently, the majority of domestic sports apps have integrated features such as personalized news, videos, live broadcast, data pool, and real-time ranking, taking in a wide range of buzz words.

In this article, we use appinsight data to rank and analyze several well-known sports apps at home and abroad, in an effort to provide some helpful insights for the future development of Chinese sports apps.


1. Enjoying huge potential for development and many models for profit-making, sports apps are likely to experience an explosion in the future

2. The analysis of Chinese, American, Indian and German markets shows that cultural barriers are a great challenge for sports apps

3. Despite all the difficulties, there are still opportunities for sports apps to go international

4. Sports apps are very much likely to trend towards the integration with various categories of the mobile Internet to create more value.

I. The Past and Present of Sports Apps

Sport knows no boundaries and languages, and basically everyone has his or her favorite sport. In traditional areas, sports is just as important and irreplaceable as politics, economy, entertainment and culture. Sports apps only account for a small part of it. Previously, people tended to use news apps (news and data) and video apps (live events and playback) to follow sports. It was only during the outburst of major sport events that they would put their excessive enthusiasm to verticals.

The sports apps nowadays are mainly converted from three sources. The first is the sports section segmented from the general contents of portal and video websites such as Tencent, Sina and LeTV. The second is those like Dongqiudi and Hupu that have transformed directly from vertical websites to the mobile apps. The third is apps designed and launched for specific events, which are more common in foreign countries. This kind of apps often sees explosive growth but cannot last long. Their names often contain the game names, such as UEFA Euro, March Madness and Indian Premier League, and get forgotten as the game ends.

II. The Inevitability During the Development of Sports Apps: Why Are They Splashing the Money?

According to the data from appinsight as of June 19, 2016, the global market penetration rate of the Sports category is only1.621%, ranking 34th among the 41 app and game categories (referencing Google Play categories). The Tools category ranks first with a penetration rate of 39.281%, and Software & Demo the last with a penetration rate of 0.099%. 


Global Penetration Rate Comparison






Note: Penetration rate = WAU of the category / global WAU

Plenty of capital is flowing into the sports industry despite the insufficiently positive overall circumstances. There are three reasons for that:

Firstly, the Internet has become a can't-miss part of the booming sports ecology. In recent years, we have witnessed the perfect integration of the Internet with O2O industries such as catering, transportation and film. Therefore, it's also an inevitable trend for sports to be integrated with the Internet. Every link from title sponsorship to copyright, from clubs and football stars to venues and tickets can be expanded and deepened. "Sports Plus" has become a super popular concept among speculators.

Secondly, with the development of mobile Internet in recent years, app publishers have changed and lifted up their thoughts from crazy download buying and blind pursuit of user count to the exploration of clear profit-making models and precise identification of target users. Verticals can attract the highest-quality users.

Thirdly, the world-wide enthusiasm for sports has been enduring for decades, which promises great profit opportunities for sports related programs.

III. Status Quo: An Overview of the Chinese, American, Indian and German Markets

1. China: Huge Potential for Growth


Top Sports Apps by WAU in China




App Name


Market Penetration




Tencent Sports


LeTV Sports




Sina Sports


Football Cube


CCTV Sports


Hupu Sports











1.1 A blue ocean to be exploited

Among the 10 apps on the chart, Football is the only subcategory except for General, which indicates that no matter how the Chinese football team performs, the love of Chinese people for football never decreases.

Currently, sports app in China is still in its infancy with a relatively small total volume. Take Tencent Sports, the No.1 sports app for example. Although Tencent Sports ranks first with a penetration rate of over 30%, its volume is much smaller than that of Tencent News. The penetration rate of Tencent News in the Chinese market is approximately 50 times that of Tencent Sports.


Chinese Market Penetration Rate Comparison


Tencent Sports


Tencent News


Note: Penetration rate = WAU of the app / Total WAU in China

Tencent Sports is ranked 450 among all domestic apps and games, making it the one and only sports app among the top 500. By contrast, such rank for No. 1 sports apps in Germany (Kicker Bundesliga Futball News), India (Cricbuzz Cricket Scores & News) and the USA (ESPN) are 60, 81 and 94, respectively. This shows huge potential for Chinese sports apps.


App Name


Tencent Sports




Domestic Ranking









1.2 There are minor differences in functions, but disruptive products are likely to come out

In terms of functions, virtually all apps today include personalized news feed, technical data and live broadcasting; they may only differ in product UI, user experience and corresponding copyrights. It is worth noting that both Tencent Sports and LeTV Sports highlight the live broadcasting function in the home screen, which suggests that the purchase of copyrights for live broadcasting in apps is the most heavily invested part for sports apps.

Screenshots of home screens in LeTV Sports and Tencent Sports

From another perspective, the similarity in terms of functions and market share can also be understood that there hasn't been an overwhelmingly superior and dominant app in the market yet. The market may be reshaped at any time.

1.3 Where will Alibaba set foot on? The competition on sports is penetrated into every area

From title sponsoring Evergrande to sponsoring FIFA Club World Cup, Alibaba has been taking steady steps in building up its business network of sports. In September, 2015, Ali Sports was officially established. However, we don't see Ali Sports on the ranking list, other than LeTV Sports and Sina Sports in which it invests. According to the publicized information, the approach Alibaba takes to its sports business is still through "platform" - one of its biggest excellences.

As Zhang Dazhong, CEO of Ali Sports, noted in an interview, "we can fund game events by using Internet finance; we can help sell tickets on Ali Sports; we can provide the channels to sell sports equipment; and we can help organize audiences by using big data to tell you the location of various types of sports fans." This suggests that Alibaba has a comprehensive landscape on sports, covering Internet finance, ticket service, e-commerce, big data analysis (personalization), and perhaps even more.

During the UEFA EURO, food delivery platforms such as Baidu Takeaway and Eleme were also offering football-related midnight snack care packages in an attempt to increase popularity and gain a share from it.

2. USA: focusing on refined and in-depth contents


Top Sports Apps by WAU in the USA



Sports App

App Name


Market Penetration












Note: WAU rate = WAU of the app / Total WAU of sports apps in the country (WAU ranking, data as of June 19, 2016)

USA: enjoying extensive interests in various segments

Unlike other countries that show strong preference to a particular sport, Americans enjoy a wide range of sports, such as basketball, rugby, baseball and football. The apps for these segments all have a niche in the forest of sports apps.

As is known to all, Americans are generally not keen on football. Univision Deportes is the only football-related app included in the ranking list. Judging by the supported sport, this may probably be credited to Mexican Americans.

3. Germany: it's all about football



Top Sports Apps by WAU in Germany




Sports App








Push notifications of


football scores and goals




Note: WAU rate = WAU of the app / Total WAU of sports apps in the country (WAU ranking, data as of June 19, 2016)

UEFA EURO 2016 gives rise to a huge boom in sports apps

Germany's leading position in international football owes much to the passion of its people for football. Almost all apps on this ranking list are related to football.

EC App 2016:Live Scores, EC 2016 Match schedule and UEFA EURO 2016 Official App, as their names imply, are specifically designed for the UEFA EURO 2016. Riding the wave of EFA EURO 2016, they climbed to #2, #5 and #6 respectively on the ranking list.In May, EC App 2016: Live Scores and EC 2016 Match schedule became the country's No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of WAU growth. As the official app of UEFA EURO 2016, UEFA EURO 2016 Official App was also boosted up by this event, and achieved remarkable results.


App Name


WAU Growth in May

From this data we see that sports apps can grow explosively as the competition progresses. From the fact that the #1 sports app kicker Bundesliga Futball News only has a penetration rate of 12.40% in this very market, in particular, we anticipate a highly competitive market with endless possibilities.

4. India: all they need is cricket


Top Sports Apps by WAU in India




Sports App










Note: WAU rate = WAU of the app / Total WAU of sports apps in the country (WAU ranking, data as of June 19, 2016)

India: a country crazy for cricket

Although other sports can be found in this ranking list, the #1 app holds a penetration rate of over 75%, giving virtually no chance for other apps to catch up. Football is another popular sport second to cricket. Facilitated by UEFA EURO 2016, the UEFA EURO 2016 Official App managed to rank 6th in the country.

Notably, the apps from ESPN and Yahoo, two companies ranking among the top in the American list, are also included in the Indian list. In response to the needs of local people, these companies have shifted their focus to cricket, setting a good example for localization of sports apps.

Due to the underdeveloped network, live broadcasting hasn't become a universal function in Indian sports apps. This is the biggest difference between Indian sports apps and those of other countries.

IV Some Key Findings on Global Sports Apps

1. Sports IP is a game for high-end players.

In May, 2015, Tencent obtained a five-year exclusive Internet live broadcasting right for NBA games in China for USD 500 million. LeTV paid RMB 110 million for a one-year right to broadcast English Premier League matches in mainland China and USD 200 million-plus for a three-year right in Hong Kong. Their efforts have resulted in satisfying rankings. As far as the volume, however, the "cash burning" war hasn't led to significant increase in app users.

2. Strong infiltration of local culture

Each country has their specific interests in sports.

The Chinese love basketball and football, and as an athletic powerhouse, China also highly values sports like diving, gymnastics and table tennis. The Europeans and Latin Americans are universally keen on football. The American people favor local sports very much. Basketball is their No.1 choice, and baseball and rugby also get them excited. As for Indians, they are really crazy about cricket.

On the other hand, the No.1 sports apps of each country are all developed by its own nationals. For each app, most of the users are from their own country. We often say that there exist high culture or language barriers in the social and news areas. When it comes to sports apps, the situation looks far more optimistic.

3. Sports apps often see explosive growth but cannot last long

According to the "Global Apps Ranking by Growth in March" released by Cheetah Global Lab, sports apps show incredible growth power. For instance, the fast-growing American March Madness related app reported a growth rate of 7450%. But now it's being gradually left out. Therefore, the biggest challenges facing sports apps are: How can explosive apps keep the momentum and retain the users? What can leading apps do to expand their influence by leveraging sport events?

4. Personalized recommendation in sports apps should be made in a defined scope

Personalized recommendation has become a perfectly helpful feature in news apps. Without making any selections in the news app, users can directly read contents customized for them based on various algorithms. However, sports have posed a new conundrum on this. When a user wants to learn more about UEFA Euro, the personalized recommendation used in news apps may no longer be that satisfying. With this in mind, we propose the concept of "defined personalization", which means the contents are defined in a particular scope (sports) and then recommended to users based on their interests.

V What's the potential for sports apps to go international? Case Studies

Cheetah Global Lab has selected 3 standouts from the global sports app ranking list to study and analyzed their journey of going international.

1. Livescore

Note: This is a ranking list of the countries with the largest user base of Livescore. Since the data comes from appinsight, it may be subject to the distribution of Cheetah products.

From the perspective of going international, Livescore is the best-performing and most reliable app in providing data service. Starting from 1998, it has transformed from a Web portal to a mobile app. Despite being headquartered in France, it carries profound influence in South Asia. Livescore is able to break down culture barriers because it simply focuses on match data, such as who got a yellow card at what score and who scored a goal in what minute.

The app has found success by doing one thing and doing it unbelievably well. Although data is all it has to offer, it ensures accurate and timely delivery and can even send push notifications.

2. 365Scores

The list shows the Top 10 countries with the largest user base of 365Scores (Since the data comes from appinsight, it may be subject to the distribution of Cheetah products.)

Launched by a UK publisher, 365Scores is one of the leading global mobile sports apps and has been doing a good job in going international. The top 10 countries in terms of user base include those in Latin America, Middle East and Europe.

What makes it exceptional is personalization. 365Scores directs users to select their favorite sports, matches and teams right from the start page.

By providing a full selection of sports programs, contents and features, 365Scores sets a good role model for other peer products.

3. UEFA EURO 2016 Official App

Global trend of UEFA EURO 2016 Official App

As the official app of UEFA EURO, UEFA EURO 2016 not only excels in contents; it also merits attention in respect of features. We at Cheetah Global Lab even consider it as the bellwether of future sports apps.

It is the kind of all-in-one app, offering the most comprehensive range of features.

A. Defined personalization: Users can pick the teams and players they are interested in when first starting this app. Customized contents will then show in the home page (but we don't see obvious effect during the trial use).

B. Quality contents, detailed data, and in-depth analysis: The contents released in this app are of extremely high quality. For example, for two teams that are about to start the match, their history of competition, possible formations, behind-the-scenes stories of players, and any other information you may think of can be found here.

C. Ticketing channel: As the official app, it also provides a channel for users to buy tickets.

D. Vertical advertising: Most ads presented in the app are associated with football, for example, "Join MacDonald to predict the dream team" and "Join HYUNDAI to predict the game results". The reference of other brands does not cause any annoyance.

VI The Future of Sports Apps

The limited market share suggests that there will be unlimited possibilities and opportunities for the future of sports apps. Taking various factors into account, Cheetah Global Lab hereby makes forecasts as follows:

1. Sports+News+Expert Reviews

Currently, most fans still prefer watching sports game on television at home or at a bar, having limited demand for live broadcasting in apps. After the game is over, the fans may have some new feelings and findings, at which point they need to view some technical data, and in particular some professional in-depth reviews about the game. Thus, sports+news+expert reviews are basic demands of fans.

2. Sports+Live Broadcasting+Social Media+Community

Thanks to the rise of Bilibili in China, real-time interaction with other netizens by leaving comments while watching videos has become in vogue. To cater for such trend, many video apps have added the "barrage" function. However, this function may not be a good choice for sports videos since a barrage of comments may block some key moments of the game. For this reason, real-time comments below the live video will replace "barrage". Such a function has a distinct advantage. Anyone who submits brilliant ideas in real-time comments will soon stand out from the group and become an opinion leader. This will lead to a wider reach for his or her personal homepage and column, thus motivating more users to get involved.

3. Sports+E-commerce

There is very clear path for the integration of sports and e-commerce, which involves sports tickets, player peripherals, club peripherals and etc. What Ali Sports is working pretty hard at is the model of sports+e-commerce, which would probably get started from Nonetheless, we believe that it won't be long before they develop a standalone app and gain a foothold in the vertical area of sports.

4. Sports+Internet Personalities

Football and "football girls", just like NBA and cheerleaders, are inevitably linked together. Watching exciting games with hotties together is a stunning visual feast for sports fans. CCTV identified this point of interest a few years ago, and since then it has been a tradition for them to invite beautiful hostess to watch games together. Liu Yuxi, who was invited to watch World Cup matches and gained fame for dooming whichever team she supported, left CCTV and joined LeTV Sports. The hits like Liu might be a proof that a craze for the sports+Internet personality model is coming up.

Moreover, since social web-cast is on fire now, live web-cast by "football girls" in apps will definitely attract a great number of fans over.

5. Sports+Big Data

The sports+big data model can be applied in two ways. Firstly, efforts can be made from the perspective of user preferences. For example, user data can be leveraged to recommend news that may interest the users, or ads can be placed based on user habits so as to lead to purchase of sports products.

The second application of this model would be in sports betting. Now, we see sports apps specialized in betting crack the top 10 on a national level. If allowed by the governmental policies, there may be significant potential for sports betting. Big data can help predict game results, even the specific scores. In this regard, sports apps are increasingly developed toward the functions of stock apps.

VII Looking Ahead

Over the past years, the Internet has largely changed the way we live and the way we watch sports. From yelling in front of TV, to watching games together with strangers at bars, and to watching games in computers, iPads, and mobile apps, sports have been a part of our lives along with the development of technology. As the business landscape of sports IP becomes increasingly clear, we anticipate even more wonderful stories to happen between us and sports.

By the way, as a Chinese citizen, I really hope someday Chinese men's football team could qualify for World Cup finals again.(For this reason, I was planning to add "Repost it if you're a Chinese" in the end. But I got stopped by the editor-in-chief. Well, just go ahead and repost!)

- Rosa, Senior Analyst of Cheetah Global Lab


1. Unless otherwise specified, the data originates from 2.762 billion installations worldwide and 651 million monthly active users of Cheetah Mobile; 

2. The data is collected from daily usage of Cheetah products in accordance with applicable laws and regulations; 

3. The ranking lists and data relating to use base in the article are based on weekly active users;

4. The data is subject to user scale and base of Cheetah products, only applicable for Android devices.



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