The NFL is hoping to expand its presence in China with a new deal that gives social media platform, Sina Weibo – often called China’s Twitter – the rights to live stream select games on its network, including the Super Bowl. The deal marks the first time a sports league will live stream games on the service, the NFL says. Additionally, Sina will gain the rights to non-game, video-on-demand clips, highlights and other NFL content.
The games have already started streaming on Sina’s network, but the NFL only officially announced the deal this week. Six games have streamed over the past couple of weekend, the sports organization says. Going forward, Sina will live stream the final Sunday Night Football game in Week 17, three playoff games, and the Super Bowl.
The NFL is interested in China because of fans’ growing viewership of its content in the country. Today, the NFL reports having over 1.5 million online viewers in China each week. On average, there are over 5 million views of NFL content each week. Many Chinese viewers tend to watch games played in the early morning via in-game video clips, the NFL notes.
The sports league will cater to viewers’ interest in clips, by offering Sina users additional content beyond the live streamed games. The deal also includes clips and highlights and the rights to content like the Top 10 performances of the week, Top 5 Runs and Catches, and more.
“Sina Weibo is an excellent partner for the NFL as we engage fans across the Chinese Mainland. We are excited about working with Sina Weibo to stream NFL games to millions of fans. We’re confident this will be a valuable long-term partnership for the NFL and our sponsors in China,” said Richard Young, NFL China Managing Director, in a statement.
It’s not surprising that the NFL has sought out another online home for its games, given its continued interest in reaching younger fans via social media platforms and internet streaming sites.
The organization already has a similar deal to live stream its games via Twitter in the U.S., having been one of the first high-profile partnerships to team up with the social network on its live streaming efforts.
The NFL has worked with Snapchat to bring content to Live Stories and Discover and launched its own VR series on YouTube and Google Daydream. It has been targeting cord cutters through launches on over-the-top services like CBS All Access, DirecTV Now, and Sling TV, too.
With the Sina deal, the NFL is able to reach an expanded audience through one of the most popular social media sites in China. The service has a reported 132 million daily active users, 297 million monthly actives, and a market penetration similar to Twitter or YouTube. Users post over 100 million messages daily on the platform.