BEIJING—Pro football may rule big-screen TVs in the U.S., but it’s the small screens of smartphones where the National Football League hopes to make its play in China.
The NFL and Tencent Holdings Ltd. TCEHY -0.48% announced a deal this week that will give the Chinese internet company exclusive rights to digitally stream games online for three years.
Tencent plans to stream live games and other NFL content for free on both mobile and desktop platforms, including its flagship WeChat social-media app, which has more than 960 million monthly active users.
Expectations are that most of the viewing in China will be on mobile platforms, partly because of the time difference between the U.S. and China, said Richard Young, the head of the NFL’s operations in China.
“Now, they are watching from home while getting ready for work, watching on their commute to work, putting it on pause, going to work and continuing to watch.”
Under the agreement, Tencent will pay the NFL to stream all of its Thursday, Sunday and Monday Night Football games, as well as the Super Bowl and other selected games.