Major League Baseball, LeTV Strike Strategic
Photo by Sam Morris, courtesy of MLB

Major League Baseball games will be shown live in China beginning later this month.

MLB and Le Sports, a unit of fast-moving Chinese online group LeTV (aka Leshi Internet Information & Technology), struck a three-year deal covering mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

The exclusive deal was announced Wednesday at CES in Las Vegas and streamed live in China.

Le Sports will broadcast 125 MLB games per season, along with Mandarin-language MLB programming, through its Internet platform, mobile applications, and OTT devices.

The 125-game lineup includes four HD games per week during the regular season (96 games in total), 20 HD post season games, the All-Star Game, Home Run Derby, and all World Series games. Le Sports will have rights to rebroadcast games on video on demand.

The deal underlines how baseball is seeking to become the latest American sport to expand its appeal in the world’s most populous nation, following major inroads made by basketball. MLB opened its first office in China in 2007 and has since spawned three regional development centers.

“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,” said MLB commissioner Robert D. Manfred Jr.

“By working with MLB in China over the past three years on events, we saw just how appealing the league is to Chinese families, and how popular the games and MLB players have become to young sports fans in China,” said Le Sports CEO Lei Zhenjian in a statement.

Le Sports will establish Chinese-language online communities for 30 MLB clubs and become a central portal for Chinese baseball fans to connect with their favorite teams, from supporting MLB live events to merchandise purchases. Le Sports will also continue as co-producer of “MLB Perfect Pitch,” a baseball reality show.

Emphasizing youth development of the game, Le Sports will also broadcast MLB Beijing University Baseball League and MLB Shanghai University Baseball League opening and final games, as well as MLB Play Ball! Youth Program games.

Le Sports holds rights to over 200 sports and is also an event organizer. Part of LeTV, Le Sports has twice raised its own finance, with the latest funding round opened in September.

Listed on the Shenzhen stock market, LeTV is one of a cluster of Chinese groups pursuing a joined-up Internet environment. Its specialty is putting entertainment at the heart of an vertically- and horizontally-integrated consumer approach that stretches from film, TV and sports through to home shopping and electronic hardware. These are anchored by LeTV’s own software ‘ecosystem.’

In November, LeTV’s film production unit LeVision Pictures unveiled a raft of Hollywood deals that included investment in Lionsgate’s “Gods of Egypt.”

Present at the Las Vegas announcement were by Baseball Commissioner Manfred; MLB COO Tony Petitti; MLB senior VP of growth, strategy and international Chris Park; Le Sports chairman Gao Fei; Le Sports CEO Lei and Le Sports VP of strategy Yu Hang.

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