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China: Tencent, ESPN digital partnership

Tencent, one of China’s and the world’s leading providers of online products and services, has reached an agreement with global sports content company ESPN. The deal builds on Tencent’s vast user base across the globe and ESPN’s expertise in sports content creation. Through the collaboration, ESPN’s content will be localised and exclusively distributed and promoted by Tencent’s digital platforms in China.

“Tencent boasts a huge pool of users. Every single day, hundreds of millions of people watch streamed sports games and read sports news on Tencent. We’re really pleased to establish this relationship with ESPN, a world leading sports media group. It will accelerate Tencent’s development as a comprehensive and professional digital platform and set benchmarks for the Chinese sports media sector,” said SY Lau, Senior Executive Vice President of Tencent and President of its Online Media Group.

Under the agreement, Tencent’s live sports coverage and digital products in China will now feature exclusive Chinese-language (Mandarin) ESPN content — a combination of original and localised content — initially focused on the NBA and international football, with the potential to expand to other sports over the course of the agreement.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with one of China’s most innovative companies, and our relationship with Tencent marks an exciting new era for ESPN’s global business. This agreement will help us serve millions of Chinese fans and bring our coverage of basketball, international soccer and other sports to them like never before,” commented Russell Wolff, Executive Vice President, ESPN International.

Beginning with the 2016 NBA Playoffs, ESPN experts will be on-site at five games per week to provide exclusive, live Chinese-language analysis as part of Tencent’s NBA coverage. ESPN will also provide a weekly NBA opinion and debate programme for Tencent users.

To satisfy the growing user demand for popular international sports content, Tencent will also license from ESPN the exclusive, live digital rights in mainland China to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament (aka March Madness), more than 100 regular season college basketball games and the X Games.

Caitlyn Chen, Corporate Vice President of Tencent, said, “We recognise each other’s strengths and expertise. Together, we will further enhance our sports media platforms by taking advantage of each other’s enriched portfolio of assets to better serve the growing demands of Chinese fans.”

“We’re excited to expand ESPN’s reach in China,” added Mike Morrison, Vice President and General Manager, ESPN Asia Pacific. “Chinese fans have great knowledge and passion for sports, and bringing together the strengths of Tencent and ESPN will mean they get the best content and coverage across world-class digital products.”

ESPN will have dedicated Chinese-speaking content experts and on-air talent to support the joint effort.

Tencent’s QQ Sports (Sports.qq.com), a leading Chinese online sports portal, will help ESPN establish its most significant digital presence ever in China by launching an ESPN section. ESPN’s content will also be integrated across other QQ.com channels and sections.

ESPN will provide original Chinese-language (Mandarin) stories focused on the NBA and international soccer, as well as deliver a selection of its award-winning English-language NBA and football information and video to be translated and published on QQ Sports.

Yuefeng Sam Xie, General Manager of Marketing and Business Development of Tencent Sports, said the combination of Tencent and ESPN would create more value among advertisers and across the industry thanks to complementary nature of their businesses. “After years of evolution, China’s sports media is now at a crossroads and is ready to transform its traditional way of development. The collaboration between Tencent and ESPN will open an era of customisation and innovation in China’s sports media sector.”

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