NBA games back on Tencent as CCTV blackout continues

Chinese broadcaster service resumes live streaming after five-day suspension.

by Ed Dixon

NBA games back on Tencent as CCTV blackout continues

Chinese digital platform Tencent has ended its National Basketball Association (NBA) broadcast suspension, following the fallout from the Hong Kong pro-freedom tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, by live-streaming two games played outside of the country.

The internet services provider had ‘temporarily suspended’ its pre-season broadcast arrangements, including two games featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets in China last week. It has now resumed its service after airing a matchup between the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors and another between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Israeli team Maccabi Haifa. Both took place on 13th October.

Tencent, which penned a five-year US$1.5 billion extension with the NBA last month to remain as its exclusive digital partner in China, risked losing billions of dollars in advertisement and subscription revenue if it continued its blackout. The move also ran the risk of damaging its aim to become a go-to destination for NBA broadcasts online.

However, according to the Tencent Sports app, as reported by Bloomberg, other pre-season games will only be streamed in text and images, with video streaming set to return on 23rd October in time for the regular season.

The decision to resume broadcasting reportedly saw Tencent’s shares jump 1.1 per cent alongside other Chinese shares.

CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, which also boycotted its NBA broadcasts rights, is yet to resume televising the league.

“We do not comment on the specific commercial decisions of individual businesses,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a news briefing in Beijing in response to questions about Tencent’s decision.

“Exchanges in sports have always played an important role in promoting China-US exchanges and friendship, but like we stated earlier, be it in China or the US, mutual respect is a prerequisite for conducting exchange and cooperation.”

Despite the Tencent news, the NBA is steel reeling after all its Chinese-owned partners halted business with the league last week. A key growth market for the competition, tensions remain between the two sides after NBA commissioner Adam Silver backed the right to free expression for those associated with the league, while expressing regret over the situation.