NBA, Ant Group launch strategic partnership in China

Chinese fintech giant Ant Group said on Tuesday it had entered a strategic partnership with the NBA league in China that would see the two cooperate in areas such as video content, programme broadcasting and membership.

Fans in China would have access to NBA video content on Alipay, the hugely popular payments app owned by Ant Group, the company said in a statement.

The collaboration with the professional basketball league’s Chinese business arm will also cover areas such as joint marketing campaigns and digital collectables, Ant Group said.

NBA China last week launched a channel in Alipay that shows user-generated content from NBA China’s network of influencers and Alipay’s authorised content creators, Ant Group added.

The NBA is one of the United States’ most popular cultural exports to China and makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year from its presence in the Chinese market.

However, a decades-long partnership with state broadcaster CCTV was upset in October 2019 when then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of widespread protests in Hong Kong, a Chinese-ruled city that was embroiled in a political crisis that included months of anti-government demonstrations.

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Morey’s tweet, though quickly deleted, was criticised strongly in China, and CCTV stopped showing NBA games immediately, in what became an 18-month blackout. Basketball fans in China are watching NBA games at levels close to where they were before the 2019 rift, Reuters reported in December, citing a source familiar with the league’s viewership data.

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