The NBA is the most popular sports league in China, and esports could be key to more growth

September 30, 2019

This weekend, fans in China will be able to watch the NBA 2K esports league finals tip off for the first time ever.

The competitive video game league, run jointly by games publisher Take Two and the NBA, signed its first distribution partnership in China with Tencent just last week. The partnership assures that the 2K League can key into a region with long-established avid esports viewers.

While the stream will re-air on Tencent given the time difference, Chinese audiences will essentially be able to watch the 76ers’ and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2K League teams face off like their Western counterparts on Twitch and YouTube.

And according to the NBA, increasing the accessibility and exposure of the esports league could actually bolster the basketball organization’s growth efforts in China.

The NBA has grown over the years to become China’s most popular league. The Chinese Basketball Association estimates that about 300 million people play the sport in China, and the NBA launched NBA China back in 2008 as a result of the sport’s growing popularity in the country. They also work with the Chinese Ministry of Education to develop programs to discover and train future talent in the sport.

What’s more, the league has long had a media presence in the country. The NBA not only has a partnership with China Central Television (CCTV) that spans over 3 decades, but also a partnership with Tencent separate from the 2K League deal that was recently extended.

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