Shanghai - The National Football League (NFL) on Monday announced an agreement granting
tech giant Tencent exclusive digital streaming rights for NFL games in
China, as the world's richest sports league by revenues expands its
Under the three-year agreement Shenzhen-based Tencent will stream
live and on-demand NFL pre-season, regular-season and playoff games plus
the Super Bowl and other content in China, they announced in a joint
Financial details were not disclosed.
The NFL's uniquely American brand of gridiron football has
traditionally lagged the US National Basketball Association (NBA) and
European soccer leagues in drawing a Chinese following.
But the NFL has pushed aggressively in recent years and reports
growing interest as Chinese consumers armed with smartphones seek more
diverse sources of mobile sport and entertainment.
The NFL said its digital live-streaming viewership in China grew 17
percent in 2016 to 37 million unique viewers while video-on-demand
jumped 52 percent to 282 million views, under contracts with previous
"We are confident that this agreement will provide our growing number
of Chinese fans with a better viewing experience and more opportunities
for engagement with the NFL than ever before," NFL Commissioner Roger
Goodell said in the statement.
The deal allows the NFL to tap into Tencent's growing digital
ecosystem in China, which is headlined by its dominant WeChat messaging
platform but includes online transactions, gaming, and other features.
The NFL remains hugely popular in the US market, generating $13
billion in revenue in 2016 - the highest among domestic sports leagues
worldwide - but is also looking abroad for growth.
The NFL will stage four games in London in the coming season and a fifth in Mexico City.
It is targeting 2019 for a potential game in China and has brought
over a series of top players to promote the league in recent years,
including New England Patriots star quarterback Tom Brady in June.