Major League Baseball partnered with Chinese company Le Sports to stream live baseball games to mainland China for the first time, the league announced Wednesday.
The three-year partnership, which also includes Hong Kong and Macau, gives Le Sports exclusive media rights in China to broadcast 125 MLB games per season, along with Mandarin-language MLB programming, through its Internet platform, mobile apps and streaming devices.
China is a lucrative market for entertainment companies of all stripes, but foreign companies often face hurdles penetrating the country.
While China holds enormous audience potential thanks to its giant population with an exploding middle class, doing business in China means abiding by the decrees of an unchallenged single-party state. Foreign companies frequently partner with a Chinese firm to open a door into the market.
MLB’s partnership includes four high-definition-quality games per week during the regular season, 20 HD postseason games, the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, and all World Series games. Le Sports will have rights to rebroadcast those games on demand.
Part of the deal include Le Sports commitment to market and promote baseball on its digital devices. The companies announced the deal at an event at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
“China is a crucial frontier for the development of baseball. Our new, prominent place on Le Sports platforms both reaffirms and expands our commitment to growing the game in China,” baseball commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr. said.
Le Sports previously landed exclusive deals for other high profile sports events, such as Wimbledon from 2016-2018, the English Premier League football in Hong Kong from 2016-2019.