Alibaba is thinking big. The Chinese internet mega-retailer has signed a deal with some top teams in the National Collegiate Athletic Association to stream regular-season basketball games in China. According to the terms of the new deal, Alibaba will be the exclusive provider of men’s NCAA basketball games in China.
The first streaming broadcast in China will be the November 14th clash between the University of Washington Huskies and the University of Texas Longhorns.
Expanding sports into the lucrative Chinese market
The Huskies’ game against the Longhorns will be the first one played in China by any U.S. college or professional sports teams during the regular season. Exhibition games have taken place in the country before, but this one will count and impact the teams’ chances for an invite to the Big Dance at the end of the season. The sponsorship agreement with Alibaba was very carefully vetted by all parties and organizers are projecting a big turnout. The contest will be held in the 18,000-seat Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.
Another Pac-12 team will play at least one more regular-season contest in China during the 2016 season. Alibaba also owns the Chinese streaming rights to that game. According to a statement from the parties, the teams involved in the second match up have yet to be determined.
Analysts note that China is a large and potentially lucrative sports market. Earlier this year, the Pac-12 announced it was negotiating with Chinese online video company LeTV regarding streaming men’s basketball games in China this season. The NBA has been playing preseason games in China for several years, and two more NBA contests will be played in China this coming October.
Alibaba looking to improve U.S.-China relations
Alibaba, however, apparently has greater ambitions for its new partnership with the NCAA. “This partnership is about so much more than a basketball game,” commented Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for Alibaba. “As these student athletes complete their education and enter the global economy, China-U.S. relations will be central to the future of the world in which they live.”