Even if the NBA returns to finish this season, games won’t air in China.
The NBA’s relationship with the country soured in October 2019, when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of protesters in Hong Kong. That fallout has led to a loss of more than $300 million in revenue directly from China – which has resulted in a reduced salary cap projection for next season. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the NBA’s annual revenue was more than $8 billion, with nearly 10% of that coming from deals connected to China. That includes a deal signed last year with Tencent to be the league’s digital partner in China worth an estimated $300 million a year. China is estimated to have 300 million active basketball players and 500 million fans.
The day prior to CCTV making its intentions clear, the NBA named Michael Ma as the new CEO of NBA China. Ma was previously CEO of Endeavor China. Ma’s father, Ma Guoli, ran CCTV Sports for 16 years and was an advisor to Yao Ming, and some felt the NBA’s move would help thaw relations. Instead, Guoli resigned as an adviser to the Chinese Basketball Association.