NFL and Tencent strike exclusive streaming deal in China
American football's NFL today announced a significant three-year exclusive live streaming deal in China with Tencent, the internet giant.
Tencent will air selected live and on-demand pre-season games, all Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football games, as well as selected Sunday afternoon games, the playoffs, the Pro Bowl and the Super Bowl.
The deal covers 2017, 2018 and 2019, when the league is expected open the season in China with a match-up between the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers.
In addition to live matches, there will be a full slate of NFL programming, including the draft and combine, and docuseries NFL Hard Knocks and A Football Life.
The NFL content will be available through Tencent's NFL sections on both mobile and desktop terminals including Tencent Sports, QQ.com, Tencent Video, Kuai Bao, Penguin Live, Tencent Sports app, Tencent Video app, Tencent News app, as well as its social networking services, QQ and WeChat.
Richard Young, NFL China managing director, said: "This extraordinary partnership will bring localised NFL games and content to Tencent's hundreds of millions of daily users across China. The NFL's popularity in China is soaring and our fan base will receive unprecedented NFL coverage and content throughout the year."
The deal strengthens Tencent's digital portfolio, which also includes five-year streaming partnerships with NBA basketball and NHL ice hockey.
Caitlyn Chen, vice-president of Tencent, said: "We believe our capability in production, content distribution and fans engagement will help NFL expand its audience profile and elevate the popularity of American football in China. Tencent Sports has been dedicated to fulfilling the diverse needs of Chinese users by bringing top premium sports content to China, including global sports leagues and tournaments, basketball, soccer, tennis, winter sports and American football, among others."
The NFL has traditionally worked with a number of media partners in China. In January 2016, it struck a streaming deal with Ali Sports Group, the internet venture majority-owned by Chinese e-commerce group Alibaba, to screen games, highlights and weekly magazine shows through Youku Tudou, the online video provider known as 'China’s YouTube, as well as over-the-top and on mobiles.
The 2017 NFL regular-season gets under way on 7 September, with the New England Patriots taking on Kansas City Chiefs.