MLB Expands Deal with Chinese Firm That Blocked NBA Team amid Hong Kong Spat

Major League Baseball has expanded its contract with Chinese firm Tencent, the streaming service that briefly blocked National Basketball Association games amid a row over Hong Kong.

The deal with Tencent gives the firm rights to continue streaming MLB games in China until 2023. Additionally, the contract will allow Tencent to broadcast MLB games in other Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, through its international service WeTV.

News of the contract was revealed on Thursday, one day before MLB announced it will move the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta, Ga., in protest of the state’s new voting law.

“I have decided that the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport is by relocating this year’s All-Star Game and MLB Draft,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred said on Friday. MLB “fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box.”

Tencent is one of China’s largest tech companies, operating a streaming service as well as the WeChat app that can be used for messaging, video conferencing, and shopping. The company also contracts with the NBA to stream games in China, where almost 500 million fans used Tencent to watch games in 2018 alone.

However, in 2019 Tencent blocked streaming of all games played by the Houston Rockets after then-general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The NBA received backlash in the U.S. after the league made an apologetic statement to China and distanced itself from Morey.

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