Blackout since 2019, NBA games are back on public television in China

With the exception of one game in the 2020 Finals, NBA games have not been shown on China Central Television since Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters in 2019.

That changed recently and NBA games are back on the air, signaling improved relations between the league and the Chinese government, Sopan Deb reports to The New York Times.

The first game this year on state television, according to Global Times, was Tuesday night’s game between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz. According to Global Times, the broadcast marked the start of a full NBA return to Chinese airwaves…

“NBA games have been streamed in China for nearly 35 years, including this season on a number of other services,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said in a statement Thursday. “We believe broadcasting games to our fans in China and over 200 other countries and territories is in line with our mission to inspire and connect people around the world through basketball.”

NBA games have always been broadcast on Tencent, a powerful and popular streaming platform used in China. Even more so than in the United States (where basketball fan demographics are younger than other major sports), the NBA is popular with younger generations in China, who are more likely to stream games on phones and other devices than watching them on traditional broadcast media. anyway.

As Morey’s Tweet brought it to light, the NBA has been like many American corporations that have tried to grow their businesses globally – part of what’s behind the rapid escalation in values ​​of the NBA franchise is the league’s international growth potential, China is a big part of that – but are caught up in a culture war domestically. There are Americans who believe more in globalization as a way to increase American influence, and some push an “America first” protectionist ideology.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has continually compared the NBA to other American companies doing business in China, saying it’s more US government relationships and policies that dictate what happens than his own actions. He has also long said that he believes in “soft power” and that exporting NBA games to China also exposes that part of the world to American culture in an unfiltered way that people might not. understand otherwise.

“It’s hard to disentangle what’s happening with the NBA from the larger geopolitical issues between the United States and China,” Silver said last July at a press conference. “I think it remains important, especially when tensions are high between governments, that we foster these sporting, educational, cultural relationships…

“It certainly does not mean that we bless everything that happens in China by any means. We are basically an American company, so we follow the policy of the American government. But I expect that we will continue to distribute our games in China… and that we can play a productive role in helping the people of the United States and the people of China better understand each other and see that we are all beings humans and that there are commonalities between us.

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