ESPN has agreed to partner with Tencent the tech giant in China in a deal that broadly expands the presence of the sports media company in the most populous country in the world.
ESPN, owned by The Walt Disney Co. announced late Wednesday it would supply programming in Chinese-language, events and other content for Tencent’s coverage of live sports, providing a new route of global growth for the behemoth in sports broadcasting.
ESPN will have its own branded section on QQ Sports, a leading online Chinese sports portal owned by Tencent. ESPN content will be integrated as well across other channels of QQ.com.
Under the licensing deal terms, Tencent, based in Shenzhen, will pay ESPN for its content that includes coverage as well as analysis of NBA games that are already airing and hugely popular across China as well as international soccer.
More sports are expected to eventually be added as other sports leagues in the U.S. look to expand their reach globally.
ESPN has experienced some exposure across China. It provides the programming that is in hotels as well as factories. It reached the market as well through ESPN Star Sports, the satellite channel that is a joint venture with News Corp that ended four years ago.
However, the Tencent deal will give ESPN a direct access to consumer in China on their mobile devices, a potentially huge audience. Eighty percent of the 600 million China Internet users connect to the web via their mobile devices.
ESPN will have its own dedicated personnel who are Chinese speaking and talent on-air to support this joint effort. Most of the content is to be produced out of the offices of the company and its studios in Connecticut as well as Los Angeles, which will increase staff to handle the initiative.
Tencent is to also receive a license from ESPN for exclusive, live digital rights on mainland China to the Men’s College Basketball championship this spring.
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