Good news for American football fans in the Middle Kingdom: Tencent Holdings Limited and the National Football League recently announced that, for the next three years, Tencent Sports will be the NFL’s exclusive live digital streaming media partner in China.
According to the official NFL website, the new agreement includes live and on-demand airings of all Sunday, Monday and Thursday night football games, the playoffs, the Super Bowl and the Pro Bowl, as well as select Sunday afternoon and preseason games for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.
“We are very excited about the NFL’s future in China and proud of our partnership with Tencent,” said Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner. “We are confident that this agreement will provide our growing number of Chinese fans with a better viewing experience and more opportunities for engagement with the NFL than ever before.”
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An article by The Sports Quotient states that back in 2008, the NFL was set to play their first-ever game in China, but due to logistical issues and the lack of a solid fan base in the country, the event was called off.
Since then, however, China’s interest in the league has grown exponentially. From 2010 to 2014, the country’s fan base increased from 1.6 million to 17.7 million fans, largely as a result of promotional events and savvy marketing.
In 2015, the NFL reached 109 million viewers across 23 broadcasters over the course of the year.
Russell Wilson, of the Seattle Seahawks, teaching football techniques to Chinese youth in Shanghai
But due to the time difference, which ranges from 12 to 16 hours, watching matches in China can sometimes prove inconvenient, a problem that on-demand viewing will help alleviate.
“This extraordinary partnersehip will bring localized NFL games and content to Tencent’s hundreds of millions of daily users across China,” says Richard Young, NFL China’s managing director. “The NFL’s popularity in China is soaring and our fan base will receive unprecedented NFL coverage and content throughout the year.”
With the number of American football fans steadily increasing, the league intends to make their long-awaited Chinese debut sometime in 2018. Until then, football lovers can at least look forward to a lot more televised action.
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[Images via the Diamondback, Allison Bew]