China’s NBA viewership approaching pre-ban levels—source

The NBA logo is seen next to the Chinese national flag outside the NBA themed lifestyle complex

FILE PHOTO: The NBA logo is seen next to the Chinese national flag outside the NBA-themed lifestyle complex on the outskirts of Tianjin, China, October 10, 2019. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

LOS ANGELES,— Basketball fans in China are watching NBA games at a level close to what they were before Chinese state broadcaster CCTV stopped broadcasting the league for 18 months following a rift in 2019 , a source familiar with the tournament’s viewership data told Reuters.

Viewership increased 80% for the first seven TV shows of this season compared to the first seven shows after the broadcast resumed on March 29 of the previous season.

Viewers aren’t quite that, but are close to pre-dispute levels, said the source, who is not authorized to speak publicly about the data.

The NBA, one of the most popular U.S. cultural exports in China, earns hundreds of millions of dollars a year from its presence in the Chinese market, but the partnership has lasted a long time. decades with CCTV were shaken in October 2019.

After that, Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey that month tweeted in support of the protests in Hong Kong, a Chinese-ruled city that has been embroiled in a political crisis due to months-long anti-government protests.

Although the tweet was quickly deleted, it was strongly criticized in China. State media, including CCTV, criticized Morey for his tweet, which was seen as an example of Western intervention to stir up anti-China sentiment.

The NBA backed Morey even as his Chinese partners cut or suspended ties with the league.

The broadcaster immediately stopped showing NBA games and the blackout lasted for more than 28 months, except for the once-two-time showing of the NBA Finals in October 2020.

The return of NBA broadcasts last season also provides the opportunity for the virtually absence of COVID-19 restrictions at major sporting events in the United States, in stark contrast to the restrictions. strict about COVID-19 of their country.

Likewise, Chinese spectators watching the World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar have expressed frustration on social media with China’s COVID-free route of lockdown, regular checks and border closures. selected. Read full story

On Wednesday, Chinese citizens cheered the government’s announcement that it would relax strict rules to limit the spread of the virus. but has sparked protests and shaken the world’s second-largest economy.


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NBA viewership Outside of North America continues to grow rapidly with average annual growth rates this season outpacing China in both Portugal (+122%) and Italy (+81%).

Mexico (+36%), Philippines (+31%), Spain (+12%) and Canada (+11%) also saw an increase in interest.

Pass the NBA tournament, offers subscribers access to live and on-demand games, which have also grown internationally, with a 272% increase in Cameroon, home of Philadelphia star Joel Embiid, up 203% in Turkey and 78% in Italy.

Beginning with the late commissioner David Stern and accelerating under current commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA has aggressively targeted lucrative overseas markets.

This season includes pre-season matches in Japan and Abu Dhabi and regular season matches will be held in Mexico City later this month and Paris in January. The Basketball Africa League (BAL) completed its second season in May.

Global interest has been fueled by the rise and in some cases, domination of international players in the league, which featured 120 non-US-born players in its inaugural lineup. teams this season.

Serbia’s Nikola Jokic has successively won the MVP award of the tournament after Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo matched the same record for the seasons ending in 2019 and 2020.

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