ESPN, the sports arm of Disney, has struck a major strategic deal with online giant Tencent. The agreement will see ESPN content localized and exclusively distributed in China via Tencent’s digital platforms.
The two companies will also collaborate on content for Tencent’s media platforms, which include QQ and WeChat (Weixin).
Tencent’s live sports coverage and digital products in China will feature exclusive Mandarin-language ESPN content — a combination of original and localized content. It is initially focused on NBA basketball and international soccer, and includes the potential to expand to other sports over the course of the agreement.
Tencent’s QQ Sports portal, will launch an ESPN section, helping ESPN establish its most significant digital presence ever in China. ESPN’s content will also be integrated across other QQ.com channels and sections.
ESPN will provide original Mandarin stories focused on the NBA and international soccer, as well as deliver a selection of its English-language NBA and soccer information and video to be translated and published on QQ Sports.
Beginning with the 2016 NBA Playoffs, ESPN experts will be on-site at five games per week to provide exclusive, live Chinese-language analysis as part of Tencent’s NBA coverage. ESPN will also provide a weekly NBA opinion and debate program for Tencent users.
Tencent will also license from ESPN the exclusive, live digital rights in mainland China to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament (aka “March Madness”,) more than 100 regular season college basketball games and the X Games.
“Tencent boasts a huge pool of users. Every day, hundreds of millions of people watch streamed sports games and read sports news on Tencent,” said SY Lau, senior executive VP of Tencent and president of its Online Media Group.
“This relationship with ESPN will accelerate Tencent’s development as a comprehensive and professional digital platform and set benchmarks for the Chinese sports media sector.” “After years of evolution, China’s sports media is now at a crossroads and is ready to transform its traditional way of development. The collaboration between Tencent and ESPN will open an era of customization and innovation in China’s sports media sector,” said Sam Xie Yuefeng, GM of marketing and business development at Tencent Sports.
“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,” saidRussell Wolff, executive VP, ESPN International.