ESPN Seals Deal With Chinese Streaming Giant Tencent

Agreement puts Disney-owned network’s sports programming in front of a streaming audience in the hundreds of millions of people

ESPN will distribute local-language sports programming online in China, under an exclusive deal with streaming giant Tencent, the companies said late Tuesday.

Tencent, which operates the media platforms like QQ and WeChat, said its sports audience is in the hundreds of millions of people.

Tencent will be the only place to watch the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament and the extreme sports competition X Games online in China.

QQ Sports will launch an ESPN section, and ESPN will provide Chinese-language experts and a weekly studio program to accompany Tencent’s coverage of the NBA in China. Beginning with this year’s NBA Playoffs, ESPN experts will provide live Chinese-language analysis for five games per week, and the network plans an opinion and debate show to complement it.

Russell Wolff, the executive vice president of ESPN International, called it a “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,” he said.