The NFL has been looking to expand their presence in the world’s most populous nation, and a new deal with the country’s largest social network may just be the ticket.
In an agreement with Sina Weibo (often called the Chinese Twitter), the social network will have exclusive rights to stream certain NFL games live. The arrangement (which is the first time live sports will stream on the service) extends through this year’s Super Bowl, and includes the rights to video on demand clips, non game footage, highlights, and other NFL content.
Although the news was announced only this week, games have already started streaming on Sina Weibo, with six games streamed last weekend. Week 17’s final Sunday Night Football game will be streamed, plus three playoff games and the Super Bowl.
The NFL is interested in China because of fans’ rapidly growing viewership of its content in the country. In numbers released by the NFL, more than 1.5 million watch action online each week, with 5 million content views. Most Chinese viewers tended to watch games that are played in early morning hours through live in-game clips.
NFL China’s Managing Director Richard Young said “Sina Weibo is an excellent partner for the NFL as we engage fans across the Chinese Mainland” and added that they were confident “this will be a valuable long-term partnership for the NFL and our sponsors in China.”
Even in the states, the NFL is attempting to reach younger fans through a larger social media presence, so this move isn’t surprising. The NFL already has a similar deal in the US with Twitter, broadcasting one or two NFL games a week on the social network.
Sina Weibo has more than 132 million daily users that post over 100 million messages a day total, so there are certainly plenty of eyes to catch.