NBA Finals Game 5 airs in China; 1st in a yearon October 10, 2020 at 8:07 am

China’s CCTV televised Game 5 of the NBA Finals live, the first NBA game on broadcast television there in more than a year.

The state-run network, which started carrying NBA games in the early 1990s, pulled all such games from its programming in the wake of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting protests in Hong Kong on Oct. 4, 2019.

In its statement, CCTV cited the NBA’s assistance with fighting COVID-19 in the country as a reason for restoring broadcasts. The league donated more than $1 million and medical equipment to China earlier this year. The league and some players have expressed support for China during the past year.

“During the recent Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, the NBA sent their well wishes to fans in China,” CCTV said in a statement. “We also took note of the league has been continuously delivering goodwill [to China], particularly making positive contributions to Chinese people’s fight against COVID-19 pandemic.”

The NBA didn’t immediately comment on the announcement.

This is a major step in improving relations between the NBA and China, which had been badly damaged by Morey’s tweet and NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s comments that supported Morey.

Silver has made improving relations with China a priority for months. He said in February the league was facing more than $300 million in losses as numerous Chinese companies pulled their support of NBA teams. Those losses could extend into next season.

In May, the NBA announced a new head of its Chinese operations, Michael Ma, the son of the founder of CCTV Sports, Ma Guoli. It was thought that connection could help the league, but at the time, CCTV released a statement “reiterating its consistent stance on national sovereignty” and continued its position.

Games have been available for streaming over the internet in China, but fewer than in years past. Last year, the NBA announced a $1.5 billion rights deal with streaming partner Tencent, which is also a partner with ESPN, to show games in China over the next five years.

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