Tencent to stream Major League Baseball in China as it expands its global sport offerings

The move comes as China’s internet giants invest heavily in digital content as they vie for a slice of the growing subscription-based entertainment market

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 3:23pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 April, 2018, 3:23pm

Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company, has announced a deal to stream the US’s Major League Baseball (MLB), as it looks to extend the range of its international sports offerings for Chinese viewers.

The Shenzhen-based company said it has signed a three-year agreement with MLB which gives it the exclusive rights to stream 125 games on platforms such as its Tencent Sports app to Chinese audiences via their computers and mobile devices.

The partnership is the latest in a string of streaming deals that Tencent has struck with North American sports leagues in recent years, including the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL) and National Hockey League (NHL).

The move comes at a time when China’s internet giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent are all investing heavily in digital content as they seek to carve out a slice of the growing subscription-based entertainment market in China. Apart from streaming live sports, they are also producing their own TV series and films.

“Tencent has continued to collaborate with the world’s top sports leagues securing broadcast rights for basketball, soccer, tennis, winter sports, football and now baseball,” said the company’s vice-president Caitlyn Chen in a statement on Tuesday.

“In recent years, baseball has developed rapidly in China, which wouldn’t happen without MLB’s dedicated promotion in China for over a decade.”

Games to be streamed include MLB Jewel Events as well as regular season games, the All-Star Game, postseason games and the World Series.

The Chinese company will also work closely with MLB to promote baseball in China by streaming an array of youth baseball events and organising events designed to develop the sport.

Tencent’s broad base of about 963 million online users can also help boost viewership of sporting league events.

In 2015, NBA agreed a five-year partnership worth a reported US$500 million with Tencent – the NBA’s largest international partnership to date – and has since seen the average viewership of its games double, according to Mailman’s 2017 NBA Red Card report.