Yi Jianlian's departure to join fellow Chinese Yao Ming in the NBA has led to diminished interest in domestic basketball, local media reported on Thursday.
Six of the 17 teams in the professional Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) league have no TV coverage of their home games due to "low audience ratings and limited marketing opportunities", the China Daily reported.
By contrast, when the Milwaukee Bucks played the Houston Rockets on November 10, pitching the two Chinese giants against each other for the first time in the NBA, 19 Chinese networks broadcast the game to an estimated audience of between 100 and 200 million.
Guangdong Tigers' Wang Shipeng dribbles the ball during the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) game against Jiangsu Dahua on November 28, 2007 in Guangzhou, Guangdong won 127-91. (Xinhua Photo)
"It is a very embarrassing situation," Hao Guohua, director of the CBA's managing office, told the paper.
"We are likely to change the league's entry standards, and let them guarantee the coverage at least."
Unlike in other markets, CBA teams have to pay local television stations if they want their games shown. The paper cited the example of Fujian Xunxing who were asked for 600,000 yuan ($81,080) to have one game shown live each week.
"The charge is very high for clubs," said Hao, "We will have some specific regulation for the bottom-ranked clubs and try to help improve their (income)."
Hao admitted that long-term the only way to change the situation was to enhance the the quality of the league.
"As the governing body of the sport in China, we cannot help," he said. "And I can tell you all we can do is just try to negotiate with clubs and television stations."
The CBA had claimed an accumulative television audience of some 315 million in 2005 but this season only 41 games will be broadcasted on China's state television, compared with 96 NBA games.
CBA president Li Yuanwei said last month he was not concerned about the Yi and Yao-fuelled popularity of the NBA.
"McDonald's has been in China for quite a long time, but there are still a lot of people who love Shanghai cuisine," he said.Source: chinadaily.com.cn/Agencies