BEIJING/NEW YORK: Tencent, the internet giant, has taken another major step in building its content offer for Chinese consumers with a new extended tie-up with the US's National Basketball Association.

As the Exclusive Official Digital Partner of the NBA in China, Tencent will feature a record number of live NBA games alongside related content such as interactive gaming, customised communities, and merchandise. All this will be available on Tencent's various platforms, including, Weixin, Tencent Video and News apps.

NBA games attract an estimated 100m fans in China which also boasts around 300m active players. "The NBA represents both a widely-followed sport and an active healthy way of life in China," said Martin Lau, Tencent president.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has also discussed the possibility of having teams play their games early on Saturday mornings in order to accommodate Chinese audiences.

Online entertainment – sport, TV and music – has emerged a new battleground for China's leading internet and tech firms in recent months. In November last year, for example, Tencent signed a deal with HBO, the US cable network, to distribute its TV shows and films.

That was welcomed by HBO as "a nice counter to the piracy that is going on inside the country".

"There's a big demand from Chinese consumers for American content," according to Joel Backaler, consultant and author of China Goes West. "You're also seeing a crackdown on pirated video and media content and because of that a higher demand for licensed content," he told International Business Times.

Some observers have suggested the pressure here is coming from the opposite direction as well – as companies like Tencent expand into countries with stricter copyright regimes, so they are more ready to work with intellectual property owners.

Tencent has also come to a distribution agreement with Warner Music Group, which will see the organisation negotiating licensing deals with local audio services, including those operated by its rivals Baidu and Alibaba.

Alibaba itself has allied with Lions Gate Entertainment, the US production studio behind TV series such as Mad Men, to make its shows available on its set-top boxes.

Data sourced from PR Newswire, The Diplomat, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times; additional content6 by Warc staff