The National Basketball Association (NBA) will open its first overseas store in Beijing on Wangfujing Street, according to sources close to the decision.
Heidi Ueberroth, president of international business operations with the NBA, said the company would open its first overseas store in either Beijing or Shanghai as China becomes the biggest market in its fast growing international business.
Sources, however, said the location will be on Wangfujing, Beijing's Fifth Avenue, where the NBA already has a US outlet.
The league, which said it wants to increase its connection with Chinese fans, believes stores and restaurants are "an interesting new opportunity."
Ueberroth said the NBA's international operations contribute only 10 per cent of total revenue, but it's the fastest growing part of the business with an annual increase of 30 per cent.
More than 300 million people in China play basketball, according to official statistics. The NBA is the most popular sports league in the country, according to a survey by the European research company TNS. It found 83 per cent of males between 15 to 61 years old are interested in the game, up from 75 per cent last year.
The NBA's revenue in the 2005 fiscal year ending August was US$3.2 billion and overall growth was 6.7 per cent, according to financial website Hoover's Online.
China is the NBA's largest market with an annual growth rate of 50 per cent in recent years.
The US sports league, which started to co-operate with the Chinese national broadcaster CCTV in 1987, signed 14 new broadcasters this year to expand the coverage of games. Most of these broadcasters are in western or inland regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang or counties such as Jinshan in Shanghai.
Currently, as many as 51 TV and radio broadcasters show 10 NBA games a week. The NBA All Stars game this year had 232 million Chinese viewers, 30 per cent higher than last year.
Like many multinational firms, the NBA hopes to penetrate beyond China's larger cities into the whole of the country, it said.
Besides retailing, the NBA is also looking to technology to spread its product. Ueberroth said the it's in talks with China Mobile to bring mobile content to the telecom's 290 million subscribers, such as game news, scores, and video clips.
China's booming Internet sector is another place for growth. Last year, the NBA signed an agreement with the Chinese firm Nusports to broadcast 42 games live on the Internet.
Source: China Daily