Opportunity knocks for China as Australia’s National Basketball League reveals plan to broadcast games in mainland

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 11:14am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 October, 2016, 9:10pm

Australia’s NBL on Wednesday announced a deal to broadcast every game of the 2016-17 season into China, opening the door for a Chinese team to join the competition eventually.

The National Basketball League is keen to expand and Ali Sports and Sina Sports will both stream every game live on their Chinese platforms with Mandarin commentary and graphics.

NBL general manager Jeremy Loeliger called it a “new frontier” for Australian sport.

“Each of our Chinese media partners individually has a subscriber base that is greater than anything ever experienced by an Australian sport on a regular basis,” he said.

“Collectively, their reach is almost inconceivable and for our league to be potentially viewed by millions of fans each week across their digital platforms with local commentary and subtitles is nothing short of a new frontier for Australian sport.”

He said he would shortly visit China to sound out interest in a Chinese team one day joining the league.

“Obviously, that’s very high on my agenda when I go and have those discussions in China next week,” he said.

“At this stage, that’s still very much fact-finding and feeling out the local market as to what that opportunity might look like and how it might be structured.”

The NBL, which currently has eight teams, including one from New Zealand, was struggling several years ago as dwindling crowds, poor TV ratings, and a lack of star power threatened its existence.

But it has enjoyed a revival over the past two years, helped by a new digital broadcast strategy.

NBL executive director Larry Kestelman said the league wanted to collaborate more extensively not only with China, but Asia as a whole.

“We have made no secret of our desire to see the league expand and strengthen further. In the long term we see Asia having a greater involvement across our Australian NBL season,” he said.