Major League Baseball is still trying to bring the success it’s had in Japan and Korea over to China.
MLB will continue to broadcast in China through media giant Tencent, which has shown MLB games since 2018. The two sides agreed to a three-year deal that will also bring MLB games to Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.
The agreement gives Tencent rights to broadcast games four days a week and includes spring training, the All-Star game, and the playoffs. MLB also struck a deal to bring the 2021-2023 seasons to cable TV in China through Oriental Pearl New Media.
Tencent saw 26% revenue growth in the fourth quarter of 2020, up to $20.5 billion, and has invested heavily in gaming. The conglomerate — which briefly dropped NBA coverage in 2019 when then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey made comments supporting Hong Kong protestors — also has deals with the NFL, NBA, and NHL.
MLB sponsors three development centers in China, allowing several players to sign contracts with MLB teams, though there are still no Chinese players on any active rosters.
The league has attempted to build a pipeline of baseball talent in China by working with colleges and universities in the country. Tencent will broadcast youth baseball leagues as part of the deal.
Overall, the investment in China has shown limited yields so far, but for a country of 1.4 billion people, MLB is willing to play the long game.