NBA exploring a separate China eSports league as it says 'sky's the limit'

NBA, Tencent and China

The National Basketball Association is looking into launching a separate eSports league for China in a bid to tap into the world's second largest economy, the NBA's top China exec said Wednesday.

Speaking to CNBC on the sidelines of the annual Consumer Electronics Show Asia, NBA China CEO David Shoemaker was upbeat on the potential of eSports.

"When you factor in not just filling arenas, but the content offering and what that can do with the millions of people watching it online, we think the sky's really the limit," he said.

NBA is considering either a separate eSports league in China or including Chinese teams in the U.S., he said.

The basketball league and Take-Two Interactive Software teamed up in February to launch an eSports organization. The online game now boasts over 3 million monthly active users, said Shoemaker.

Lintao Zhang | Getty Images

According to a May report by IHS Markit, total hours viewed in the eSports video genre exceeded 6 billion globally in 2016 — an increase of 19 percent from 2015 — with China by far the largest market, accounting for 57 percent of all viewing last year.

IHS Markit said the number of video streams delivered in China totaled 11.1 billion in 2016. The second largest market was North America with 2.7 billion video streams.

NBA China is also looking to optimize the viewing experience for its games in China as it partners with Tencent to deliver real-time content in the best mobile format possible, Shoemaker said.

"The reality is most of our fans still can't buy that ticket and 99-point-something percent of our fans will never get to go see an NBA game, so we're focused a little bit on tech and how we can use tech to bring that NBA experience to our fans," he said.