Almost half a billion basketball fans in China watched NBA programming on Tencent’s platforms last season, figures which have encouraged the pair to extend their existing partnership for another five years and expand it into new areas.

Viewing figures have almost tripled since the 2015 season; 21 million fans in China watched Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Tencent, making it the most-watched NBA game ever on a digital platform in China.

The value of the new deal was not disclosed but, according to Quartz, online sports news channel Lanxiong Sports speculated that it could be as much as $1.5 billion, three times the original deal announced in 2015.

That was struck at a time when there was a growing demand from Chinese consumers for American content and a crackdown on pirated video and media content was leading to more interest in licensed content.

Under the expanded partnership, live NBA games, video on-demand (VOD) and short video content will be available for fans through Tencent’s digital and social media platforms including, Tencent Sports, Tencent News, Tencent Video, QQ, Weixin and Weishi.

The two sides will work together to develop innovative advertising products, and launch and operate “mini programs” for mobile devices, including the NBA’s fan loyalty program in China: NBA Qiu Mi Quan (QMQ).

Tencent will also leverage its consumer insights to help the NBA expand its fanbase in China and provide the league’s global fanbase with new, customized interactive services.

“Tencent’s commitment to NBA basketball in China is unparalleled,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “The enormous reach and popularity of Tencent’s platforms have been a driving force behind the growth of basketball in China, and we look forward to deepening our connection with NBA fans across the country through this expanded partnership.”

Tencent isn’t the only platform the NBA is working with in China. It has exclusive rights to live-stream games online, but sports channel CCTV 5 has the exclusive rights to broadcast the games live on television.

And, Quartz noted, Bytedance has a deal that allows it to publish short videos – game highlights and behind-the-scenes clips, for example – on Tik Tok.

Sourced from NBA, Quartz; additional content by WARC staff