Chinese fintech company Ant Group Co. has partnered with NBA China to work together on areas such as video content, program broadcasting, and membership.
The Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. affiliate said basketball fans in the country would be able to access NBA video content via its payment app Alipay.
That marks the first time fans of the sport in China would gain access to video content of the professional basketball league. The team-up also makes Alipay a strategic partner of NBA China in the digital life field.
Ant Group added that the partnership would see them cooperate on joint marketing campaigns, digital collectibles, and social responsibility projects to interact with fans and communities.
NBA China last week introduced a channel on Alipay consisting of content made by its network of influencers and the online payment platform’s approved content creators.
NBA Post-Blackout in China
The NBA is one of China’s most successful American sports exports, generating hundreds of millions of dollars annually in the country’s market.
However, the longtime relationship with state-run television broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) was struck in October 2019 by then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey’s tweet expressing his support for the anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
While the post was immediately deleted, Morey’s stance received strong criticism in the world’s second-largest economy, prompting CCTV to suspend the broadcast of NBA’s preseason games played in the country and resulting in an 18-month blackout.
A source with knowledge of the NBA’s viewership data stated in December that basketball fans in China are viewing NBA games at levels near where there were prior to the issue in 2019.
Ant Group chief tech officer (CTO) and Alipay.com Co. Ltd. chairman Ni Xingjun said bringing NBA’s quality content, and content creators into their platform is a crucial step for the digital payment app to support the content ecosystem as an open platform.
Ni also stated that they look to create a young digital interactive platform for the league’s fans in the country and provide new services and sports interactions to the digital age.