Overseas viewership during the NBA 2K League’s second season rose significantly, Take-Two Interactive President Karl Slatoff said during the company’s earnings call earlier this month.
In its earnings call for the first quarter ending Aug. 5 of the company’s fiscal year, Slatoff addressed the league’s increased success in the international market, saying, “NBA 2K League viewership both live and on-demand continues to rise, with the second season seeing 34% increase in views overseas over season one.”
After the first season of the NBA 2K League, the league took several steps to try and widen its accessibility to non-North American competitors. The league held an Asia-Pacific Invitational tournament in Hong Kong for select players from the region, with potential spots in the NBA 2K League season two draft pool on the line. One player from the tournament, New Zealand’s Jack “Jaacko” Stevenson, was selected by Pistons GT in the third round of the draft. He joined Harry “Hazzaa” Hurst, the league’s lone European player in season two, as part of 11 international players in the league. Hazzaa and fellow Englishman Jamie “Gooner” Bull both played in the league in season one; Hazzaa played alongside Germany’s Jannis “JLB_2K” Neumann, who now plays for Bayern [Munich] Ballers Gaming.
The league secured an ultra-important distribution agreement deal with Chinese multimedia giant Tencent before the season two playoffs, likely boosting viewership numbers beyond Slatoff’s original number. Tencent streamed select 2019 NBA 2K League playoff games and all of the league’s Finals games across Tencent Sports, Tencent Video and Tencent News.
“Tencent is the ideal partner to distribute our games and bring the excitement of the NBA 2K League to fans in China,” NBA 2K League Managing Director Brendan Donohue said at the time of the announcement. “This partnership illustrates the popularity of esports and interest in the NBA 2K League among its hundreds of millions of daily users.”
China is a key intermediate target for the league, which has repeatedly called international expansion a matter of when, not if. The NBA 2K Online franchise is the top PC online sports game in China, and the original game and its predecessor have a registered user base that exceeds 46 million players, per Take-Two. As a whole, NBA 2K19 sold nearly 12 million copies worldwide and was the best-selling edition in franchise history.
“We also would love to see some engagement with regard to the NBA 2K League in China and we think there is some potential opportunity there with Tencent,” Slatoff said in the earnings call.
Earlier in the season, the league also struck a deal with YouTube to stream all games. That platform showed slow but marked growth especially during the playoffs. NBA 2K League content has generated more than 306 million video views across all NBA and NBA 2K League social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Twitch and YouTube), while the league and its 22 teams have more than 2 million combined followers on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), per the league.
“We are very excited about the continued progress and growth of the league, which has the long-term potential to enhance engagement and to be a driver of profits for our company,” Slatoff said.