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Alibaba launches free streaming of US basketball games

Chinese e-commerce giant hopes to spur sales of related paraphernalia

The Brooklyn Nets play the LA Clippers on March 17 in Los Angeles. Alibaba will stream video clips of NBA games in China for free.
The Brooklyn Nets play the LA Clippers on March 17 in Los Angeles. Alibaba will stream video clips of NBA games in China for free.   © Reuters/Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

SHANGHAI -- Alibaba Group Holding has begun streaming free videos of American basketball games on its Youku Tudou site as well as e-commerce site Taobao.com, looking to boost sales of related items.

Highlights and past games have been available to view on the Chinese sites since this month. Taobao also sells branded merchandise, expanding a collaboration with the National Basketball Association that Alibaba has had since 2012.

With more and more Chinese playing sports as health consciousness rises, Alibaba seeks to leverage the strong brand power of the U.S. professional basketball league to cultivate demand for related products. Last year, Alibaba streamed videos of the soccer World Cup in Russia.

The Chinese market for sporting goods grew about 10% to 161 billion yuan ($24 billion) in 2018. The government helps fund promotion of soccer, basketball and other sports.

Other Chinese companies are moving to step up sports-related businesses. Sporting goods company Anta Sports Products announced in December a 4.6 billion euro ($5.2 billion) tender offer to acquire Finnish peer Amer Sports with partners including Tencent Holdings.

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