ESPN teams up with Tencent, grabbing clicks from Chinese fans

Global Business

ESPN teams up with Tencent, grabbing clicks from Chinese fans2

United States sports channel ESPN signed a deal with Tencent, a Chinese internet company, to offer live games and Mandarin-language sports commentary online in China.

CCTV’s Chen Tong finds out how the partnership benefits both fans in China and also the companies.

ESPN teams up with Tencent, grabbing clicks from Chinese fans

ESPN teams up with Tencent, grabbing clicks from Chinese fans

Rather than opening a new website itself, ESPN chose to piggy-back on Tencent to provide sports analysis in Chinese. CCTV’s Chen Tong reports.

The rapid expansion of sports media in China took another step forward in the last NBA Playoffs, when, for the first time, Chinese viewers experienced American-style game commentaries from ESPN posted on a new website from internet giant Tencent.

Tencent and ESPN teamed up earlier this year, both hoping to gain advantages from the other.

NBA fan Tang Sicong wears the uniform of his favorite NBA player LeBron James, hoping some of James’ skills will rub off on him. Five years ago, when Sicong was studying in the U.S., everything he knew about James came from ESPN, the premier U.S. sports broadcaster. But now Sicong keeps up with the sport on ESPN’s new Chinese website.

“I used to watch NBA games on CCTV and Shanghai TV’s Great Sports, but now I prefer to watch them online,” Sicong said. “I go to the ESPN website that works with Tencent. It’s convenient, and their sports commentaries are more professional because ESPN is a mainstream sports provider. I trust it.”

While ESPN is known around the world, it was unknown in China before its deal with Tencent in April. Rather than opening a new website itself, ESPN chose to piggy-back on Tencent to provide sports analysis in Chinese. In addition to information about NBA games, the website also highlights and analyses other sports like soccer, baseball and swimming.  ESPN’s Chinese website even has some coverage of little-known sports in China from the U.S. like NCAA basketball, carrying replays of previous games.

“I pay most attention to NCAA games because the team from my city in the U.S. is very strong and very popular,” Sicong said. “I don’t have time to watch games at work so watching them online is quicker and more convenient. I can also replay some games.”

The deal between Tencent and ESPN is a perfect fit for fans like Sicong, but the real winners here are the two companies. Sicong is far from the only fan watching NBA games from ESPN via Tencent. The Chinese company said its audience for NBA games hit 400 million during this year’s NBA Playoffs, and Tencent is far from the only Chinese internet player in the game. LeTV and Iqiyi are also in the business of buying up as many broadcast rights as they can, to feed China’s ever-growing appetite for sports video.


Norman O’Reilly discusses sports media in China

For more on the Chinese sports market, CCTV America’s Michelle Makori spoke to Norman O’Reilly, Department of Sports Administration chair at Ohio University’s College of Business, about Chinese media companies investing in sports rights, the demand for certain sports and how live streaming is affecting traditional broadcasting.