NBA returns to CCTV a year on from Morey dispute

Chinese state network cites league’s Covid contributions in thawing of tensions.

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  • NBA has been absent from Chinese TV since 4th October 2019
  • Dispute over pro-Hong Kong democracy tweet estimated to have cost NBA US$400m

Almost a year after the National Basketball Association (NBA) and China’s geopolitical dispute first ignited, CCTV aired game five of the North American basketball league’s finals series to mark a de-escalation in tensions.

State-owned CCTV issued a statement on 9th October stating its intention to broadcast the game.

‘During the recent Chinese National Day and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations, the NBA sent their well wishes to fans in China,’ the statement read. ‘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 game, which saw the Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers to delay LeBron James’ charge for his fourth NBA title until game six on 11th October, was the league’s first linear broadcast in China in over a year.

CCTV, which has shown NBA games since the early 1990s, pulled all coverage after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of anti-government protesters in Hong Kong on 4th October 2019. Sponsors also cancelled deals with the NBA and its teams, while merchandise was pulled from stores. After an initial pause, Chinese fans have since been able to watch NBA games on the Tencent streaming service.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the fallout could cost as much as US$400 million in losses, with the Chinese market estimated to make up at least ten per cent of its global revenue.

CCTV aired game five of the NBA final series