The NBA returns to Chinese state television after a one-year ban

Lake Buena Vista, Florida (AFP) – The NBA is back on Chinese state television after a year-long absence.

CCTV announced Friday that it will be broadcasting the fifth NBA Finals game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat – the first time the league has appeared on the network since the rift that began when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong. .

State TV announced live that the match will be broadcast; The network’s website had a preview of the game, including a photo of LeBron James of the Lakers and Jimmy Butler of Miami.

China Media Group, the primary operator of CCTV, said in a statement: “On the Chinese National Day and the Mid-Autumn Festival which has just passed, the National Basketball Association expressed the holiday’s blessing to the Chinese fans.” By the NBA for some time. Especially since the beginning of this year, the National Basketball Association has made active efforts in support of the Chinese people in fighting the novel coronavirus epidemic. “

CCTV quickly halted its relationship with the NBA after Morey’s tweet, although the post was quickly deleted. Given the timing, the suspension of NBA coverage by that network appears to have been designed for a one-year period; On October 8, 2019, CCTV announced that it had launched an immediate investigation into its relationship with the NBA, citing that the network was “extremely dissatisfied” with the association’s decision not to punish Morrie.

The NBA had no immediate comment on the CCTV decision.

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NBA games were available to Chinese fans on Tencent, another broadcast partner in the league. But the relationship between the league and China is best classified as lukewarm since the tweet, with some slight hints of reconciliation.

NBA legend and Chinese Basketball Association president Yao Ming came to the United States to attend the memorial service for Honorary Commissioner David Stern in January, a move seen by some as a move that showed hope that the league and China would mend fences. More hope came in February, when the NBA sent more than $ 1 million in medical supplies to China to aid the coronavirus relief efforts there. The Chinese publicly thanked the NBA for this gesture.

But the fallout following last year’s tweet was swift and massive. Sponsors withdraw – after CCTV advances – their support for the Chinese NBA Games between the Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets; The pre-season matches were played, although no press conferences were held and most of the events surrounding the games were canceled in the basketball-crazy country.

At this year’s All-Star weekend, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league could lose up to $ 400 million in revenue this year due to the strained relationship with the Chinese.

That estimate was preceded by the costly shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, another huge financial blow that forced the league to cancel around 15% of the remaining regular season matches. The league ended up saving the season by moving into a bubble in Walt Disney World, another big cost for games that took place without fans attending – meaning no ticket, franchise, or souvenir revenue.

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