NBA in expanded digital partnership with China's Tencent

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BEIJING (AP) — The National Basketball Association is forming its largest international digital partnership through an expansion of its arrangements with Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd., the league said Friday.

The new five-year arrangement will deliver an expanded number of live games, original programming and highlights beginning July 1 through Tencent's range of personal computer and mobile services, the league said in a statement released in Beijing and New York.

"This multi-year agreement enables us to bring substantially more NBA games and content to consumers than has ever been available in the past," Martin Lau, president of Tencent, was quoted as saying in the statement.

NBA games are televised on state broadcaster CCTV.

Tencent operates the popular WeChat social media service and is launching services in personal finance, entertainment and other fields. It has also been picked by Beijing to be among the investors in China's first privately financed banks since the 1949 Communist revolution.

At the same time, China has grown increasingly important to the NBA as it sees its international revenues nearing those at home.

The NBA has an estimated 70 million followers on China's microblogging platforms, while the legacy of former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming means the league is very popular.

The league's China revenues have soared past $100 million annually with sales of merchandise and licensing agreements.

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