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NBA jumps on TikTok craze

New partnership brings game highlights and customized clips to ByteDance’s TikTok, Douyin and Toutiao

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

On the sidelines of one recent NBA game, two-year-old Jrue Tyler Holiday is seen reaching out to her dad with a tiny hand. The 6-foot-4 New Orleans Pelicans point guard Jrue Holiday turns to his daughter, plants a kiss on her lips, and gives one to his wife as well. Meanwhile Chinese pop star Jiang Yaojia’s tear-jerking hit “Father” plays over the adorable scene.

The brief video, no longer than 15 seconds, didn’t appear on Twitter or Snapchat. It was from Douyin -- a Chinese app you might know by another name: TikTok.

TikTok, the viral short video sensation, has its roots in China

It’s all part of the NBA’s new partnership with Chinese mega start-up ByteDance. In addition to China, TikTok says viewers in the US and five other countries can now watch NBA game highlights and behind-the-scene clips customized to the app’s bite-size length. Users in China will also find similar content on ByteDance’s Xigua Video and its news aggregation site Toutiao.

Breaking down China's most popular news app, Toutiao

The NBA is no stranger to Chinese social media, where it enjoys extraordinary recognition among fans. The league’s Weibo account has some 38 million followers -- over 10 million more than its Twitter account. Part of it comes down to localized content appealing to Chinese taste.

How Weibo became China’s most popular blogging platform

During the past Lunar New Year, NBA ran a 10-minute documentary on Weibo featuring Jeremy Lin visiting his grandmother in China. Lin, who has 5.7 million followers on his own Weibo account, writes and speaks Chinese. A video from last week, showing him teaching Chinese phrases to Atlanta Hawks teammates Kevin Huerter and Alex Len, garnered nearly 1.8 million views.
Lin was quick to jump on TikTok. Last year, he started an account on Douyin, becoming the platform’s most popular Western sports star, according to digital sports marketing firm Mailman. He now has a million more followers there than on Weibo.  
Kobe Bryant announces the release of his new book The Mamba Mentality in China. (Picture: Weibo/Kobe Bryant)
On Weibo, no one beats the legendary Kobe Bryant, who reached 7 million Weibo followers this week. The retired player writes in English, but his posts often come with a Chinese twist. His #MondayMuse posts feature Chinese heroes like Lang Ping, head coach of China’s national volleyball team, and Charles K. Kao, the late Nobel-winning physicist -- big names that will surely ring a bell in China.

Even more fans are tuning in to catch full NBA games online. In China, Tencent holds the digital broadcasting rights to all NBA content. Last year on mobile alone, nearly 200 million people tuned for the NBA Finals.

China is in the new NBA 2K, but does China care?

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.