More than three months on from that tweet by Daryl Morey and the ramifications of a major rift between the NBA and China are still being felt. This past weekend has seen Chinese basketball fans up in arms once more after Tencent replaced its flagship livestreaming of the league with text commentary only.
The move comes almost 100 days since Morey tweeted in support of protestors in Hong Kong, triggering a huge public row between the NBA and the Chinese authorities as well as conversations related to freedom of speech and the long reach of Chinese censorship overseas. One of the consequences of the spat was that Chinese broadcasters refused to air the NBA’s pre-season China Games in Shanghai and Shenzhen, though Tencent did provide streams of select games once the regular season began.
The New NBA Season is Streaming in China… Kind Of
The initial controversy erupted shortly after Tencent had inked a major streaming deal with the NBA worth 1.5 billion USD over 5 years and led to Tencent only showing stream of a handful of games from each round with a delay, while others simply had text and picture updates. The weekend saw only the latter for all games, with no footage being streamed, though as of Monday morning China time, delayed video streams of some games appeared to have returned.
Now, fans who have paid for VIP membership in order to get full access to coverage of the games are wondering what’s happening, with Tencent so far not offering any explanation as to why only text updates were available this weekend.
“What’s going on?!” wrote one exasperated fan on microblogging site Weibo. “Don’t say I don’t love my country, I also love basketball. Sport should have no borders!”
“We’ll just have to use our imaginations to see this game,” wrote another in regard to text-only coverage of the Lakers versus the Dallas Mavericks.
The lack of an official explanation from Tencent has led to widespread speculation on the Chinese internet. Some have pointed to the hosting this weekend of the CBA’s All Star Game as a possible cause. In the main event, which featured Jeremy Lin, the South beat the North 167-166 thanks to a last minute layup from Hu Mingxuan. There was also a dunk contest, some of which you can watch here:
With the CBA’s All Star Weekend out the way, NBA fans are now left wondering whether Tencent’s coverage of the American league will make a full return. Or at least, a return to the partial streaming they’ve experienced so far this season.
For more on how China fell in love with basketball, check out our piece on the history of the sport in the country here:
How Basketball Became China’s Most Beloved Sport
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam