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Volume 20 No. 46
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MLB assists Chinese TV series

‘Boyhood,’ starring a popular boy band, provided baseball with some valuable exposure

Major League Baseball recently collaborated on the first baseball-themed TV series in China, helping advance the sport’s interests in the world’s most populous country.

The league served as a technical consultant and provided its MLB Development Center in Nanjing, China, for “Boyhood,” a 40-episode TV series airing both on TV (Hunan Satellite TV) and digitally. The series featured the TFBoys, a highly popular Chinese boy band, as players on an up-and-coming youth baseball team seeking to overcome a series of obstacles.

The league served as a technical assistant to the series, which featured the TFBoys.
Courtesy of: MLB
Hunan Mango Entertainment Ltd. produced the series. During its monthlong run in July, “Boyhood” was the top-ranked TV show in China in its prime-time slot, generated more than 5 billion video views digitally and was the No. 1 topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo, a first for baseball there. The TFBoys have previously set their own traffic records on Weibo, and have used a wholesome image to amass more than 60 million Weibo followers and a slew of recording industry awards.

Similar to MLB’s efforts on domestic TV series such as Fox’s now-canceled “Pitch,” the “Boyhood” effort in China involved trying to place baseball squarely in other segments of pop culture.

'Boyhood' placed baseball in other segments of pop culture.
Courtesy of: MLB
“This is another example of trying to do something more strategic and integral to the culture than simply plastering up the silhouetted batter [logo],” said Chris Park, MLB senior vice president of growth, strategy and international. “We think this really helps build awareness for baseball in a really important market like this by presenting the sport right along with key trendsetters.”

The “Boyhood” series also featured 17 actual baseball players groomed at MLB’s Development Center in China, including three who have signed minor league contracts with MLB clubs.

“Boyhood” additionally intersected with another major MLB business initiative in China: the league’s multiyear deal with Le Sports to live-stream MLB games in the country. A promo spot for “Boyhood” jointly produced by MLB China and the show’s producers ran during live MLB games on Le Sports. And viewers of MLB’s All-Star Game and Home Run Derby on Le Sports had a chance to win limited-edition posters from the show.

Le Sports, however, has serious financial issues, losing digital content contracts with the Asian Football Confederation and ATP World Tour over missed rights fee payments and shedding 10 percent of its staff late last year.