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NBA returning to Chinese state television after 1-year ban

NBA returning to Chinese state television after 1-year ban

Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis makes a 3-point basket with 40 seconds left on the clock in Game 4 of basketball's NBA Finals against the Miami Heat Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Florida: The NBA is returning to Chinese state television after a one-year absence. 

CCTV announced Friday (Oct 9) that it would air Game 5 of the NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat - the first time that the league would appear on the network since the rift that started when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

State television made an on-air announcement that the game would be broadcast; the network’s web site had a preview of the game, including a photo of the Lakers’ LeBron James and Miami’s Jimmy Butler.

READ: China punishes NBA after Hong Kong tweet fallout

CCTV quickly halted its relationship with the NBA after Morey’s tweet, even though the post was quickly deleted. 

Given the timing, it appears the suspension of NBA coverage by that network was designed to last one year; CCTV announced on Oct 8, 2019, that it was beginning an immediate investigation into its relationship with the NBA, stemming from the network being “strongly dissatisfied” over the league’s decision to not sanction Morey.

The NBA did not have an immediate comment to CCTV’s decision.

NBA games have been available to Chinese fans on the streaming service Tencent, another of the league’s broadcast partners. And the relationship between the league and China could be best categorized as frosty since.

NBA legend and Chinese Basketball Association President Yao Ming did come to the US to attend the memorial service for commissioner emeritus David Stern in January, a move viewed by some as one that showed there was hope for the league and China to mend fences.

But the fallout after the tweet last year was quick and massive. Sponsors - following CCTV’s lead - pulled their backing of the NBA China Games between the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets; the preseason games were played, though no news conferences were held and most events surrounding the games in the basketball-mad nation were cancelled as well.

At All-Star weekend this year, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said it was possible the league could lose as much as US$400 million in revenue this year because of the strained relationship with the Chinese.

And that estimate preceded the costly shutdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, another massive financial blow that forced the league to cancel about 15 per cent of its remaining regular-season games. The league wound up salvaging the season by moving into a bubble at Walt Disney World, yet another big expense for games that took place without fans present - meaning no ticket, concession or souvenir revenue.

Source: AP/aa


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