China’s state-run broadcaster CCTV will air Game 5 of the NBA Finals live, it announced on its website — the first game telecast in China in over a year.
CCTV pulled all NBA coverage following Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on Oct. 4, 2019. The broadcaster had been showing NBA games since the early 1990s.
Amid the fallout, in February, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that the league would accrue over $300 million in losses as Chinese companies — 11 of them, according to CNN — cut ties.
At the time of Morey’s tweet, the Chinese market was estimated to make up at least 10% of the NBA’s global revenue.
In a statement to ESPN, CCTV said the NBA’s goodwill efforts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic — which included donating over $1 million in medical equipment — played a role in its decision to resume airing games.
“During the recent Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, the NBA sent their well wishes to fans in China,” CCTV said. “We also took note of the league has been continuously delivering goodwill (to China), particularly making positive contributions to Chinese people’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic.”
In May, the NBA named Michael Ma, the son of one of the founders of CCTV Sports, Ma Guoli, its new head of Chinese operations.
While they weren’t available on linear channels, NBA games were streaming in China through a lucrative rights agreement with Tencent.
The league and Tencent, the Chinese tech giant that also owns WeChat and TikTok, finalized a five-year deal worth $1.5 billion in July 2019.