MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

LeTV and Major League Baseball sign three-year deal as sport tries to expand in China and Hong Kong

Agreement continues tech firm’s expansion into world of sports broadcasting

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 January, 2016, 11:47am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 2:05pm

China tech company LeTV has continued its expansion into sports broadcasting by signing a three-year deal with Major League Baseball to screen the league in China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The company, which shocked English Premier League fans in Hong Kong last September by buying the 2016-19 rights to the tournament for US$400 million - double the previous deal - announced its latest acquisition at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Thursday.

According to a press release, the deal will allow Le Sports to stream 125 MLB games per season including the All-Star game and World Series, plus related programming in Putonghua. They will also establish online communities for all 30 MLB teams and sell MLB merchandise.

“We need to work with local partners to make sure that we make baseball as culturally-relevant in other countries as we possibly can,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told the CES audience. “For that, we need great partners, and Le Sports is the perfect partner for us in China.”

It’s the first major deal MLB has signed in China. It opened its first office in China in 2007 as it tries to make inroads in the country.

Xu Guiyang became the first Chinese player to sign a pro contract when he joined a development team of the Baltimore Orioles last year. The World Series and selected MLB games have been screened on Chinese TV since 2007.

As well as the Premier League LeTV has recently signed rights deals with US college sports, Wimbledon and tennis’ ATP.

Meanwhile, LeTV is reported to be expanding into club ownership by buying a stake in Chinese Super League club Beijing Guo’an.