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ESPN and Tencent forge major content partnership

International sports broadcaster ESPN has agreed a multi-faceted content partnership with Chinese internet company Tencent.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Tencent’s live sports coverage and digital products in China will now feature exclusive Chinese-language ESPN content – a combination of original and localised content – initially focused on North American basketball league the NBA and international football, with the potential to expand to other sports over the course of the deal.

Beginning with the 2016 NBA Playoffs, ESPN experts will be on-site at five games per week to provide exclusive, live Chinese-language analysis as part of Tencent’s NBA coverage. ESPN will also provide a weekly NBA opinion and debate programme for Tencent users.

Tencent will also licence from ESPN the exclusive, live digital rights in mainland China to the NCAA men’s college basketball championship tournament, which is otherwise known as March Madness, along with more than 100 regular-season college basketball games and the X Games action sports franchise.

ESPN will have dedicated Chinese-speaking content experts and on-air talent to support the joint effort. QQ Sports, Tencent’s online sports portal, will help ESPN establish its most significant digital presence ever in China by launching an ESPN section. ESPN’s content will also be integrated across other QQ.com channels and sections.

Yuefeng Sam Xie, general manager of marketing and business development at Tencent Sports, said: “After years of evolution, China’s sports media is now at a crossroads and is ready to transform its traditional way of development. The collaboration between Tencent and ESPN will open an era of customisation and innovation in China’s sports media sector.”

Russell Wolff, executive vice-president of ESPN International, added: “Our relationship with Tencent marks an exciting new era for ESPN’s global business. This agreement will help us serve millions of Chinese fans and bring our coverage of basketball, international soccer and other sports to them like never before.”