The NBA will finally return to Chinese television after state broadcaster CCTV announced it would be showing Game 5 of the finals between Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat.
The move comes one year after the channel suspended its coverage of the NBA amid fall-out from Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong. Although some games have since been available through Tencent’s online platform, CCTV has maintained a blanket ban on live games for the last 12 months.
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One year on and estimates put the NBA’s loss of China revenue since the incident at more than 200 million USD. Yet there appears to have been little loss of appetite among Chinese fans for NBA action, even if the Rockets are likely to remain out in the cold for some time to come.
The announcement came late Friday evening in China, around 12 hours before tip off in the potentially decisive game, which will be shown on what is technically a work day in the country following a week-long national holiday. It immediately picked up attention on Chinese social media however. Weibo posts about the news quickly racked up thousands of likes, though many appeared to have their comment sections suspended as some users joked about the discrepancy between state media rhetoric at the time of the ban and this apparent “climbdown.”
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Nevertheless, the NBA will doubtless be hoping this marks a thawing in relations between the league and its largest overseas market.
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