China’s state broadcaster NBA Game shows the 18-month blackout is over

File photo: A man walks past an NBA logo at an NBA exhibition in Beijing, China, on October 8, 2019.

File photo: A man walks past the NBA logo at an NBA exhibition in Beijing, China, on October 8, 2019. REUTERS / Jason Lee

Beijing-Chinese state broadcaster CCTV aired a National Basketball Association (NBA) game on Wednesday for the first time in 18 months, raising hopes that relations between the league and China have improved since the 2019 rift.

The match between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Utah Jazz was broadcast live on China Central Television’s (CCTV) sports channel on Wednesday, according to its broadcast schedule.

The broadcaster last aired an NBA game in October 2020, according to the state-owned news outlet

The NBA, one of China’s most popular U.S. cultural exports, earns millions of dollars annually from its presence in the Chinese market, but its decades-long partnership with CCTV rocked in October 2019.

Rocket general manager Daryl Moore tweeted in support of the protests in Hong Kong that month, a Chinese-ruled city that has been embroiled in a political crisis over months of anti-government protests over a controversial extradition bill.

Although the tweet was quickly deleted, it drew strong criticism in China. State media, including CCTV, have criticized More for his tweets, which he cited as examples of Western intervention to provoke anti-China sentiment, while Chinese partners have severed or suspended ties with the NBA.

The broadcaster immediately stopped showing NBA games and the blackout lasted for more than 28 months, excluding the single show of the NBA Finals in October 2020.

CCTV did not announce Wednesday’s game broadcast and has not yet mentioned it. The end of the drought for the first NBA game was announced by the broadcaster in October 2020. A spokesman said at the time that the NBA had expressed goodwill for some time and “made active efforts to support the Chinese people in their fight against Kovid-19.”

The NBA’s China branch did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

CCTV owns exclusive TV rights in China for the NBA, while tech giant Tencent Holdings has exclusive Internet streaming rights in the country.

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