Penn expands global reach by broadcasting men's basketball games in Mandarin

Penn will broadcast its basketball games in Mandarin as it enhances its reach in China, where Michael Wang is from. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Penn will broadcast its basketball games in Mandarin as it enhances its reach in China, where Michael Wang is from. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The University of Pennsylvania is further boosting its longstanding relationship with China by broadcasting the final four home men’s basketball games of the season in Mandarin, per a Penn Athletics release Thursday night.

The move is part of its mission to “increase its brand and visibility in China,” per the department.

Penn to air games in Mandarin

The four broadcasts will be available in English and Mandarin on ESPN+ stateside while Stretch Internet will air it internationally. Tencent will simulcast the games in China.

Four Penn graduate students will broadcast the games, per the athletics department. Jintao Fu, Xiaoyong Jiang, Zhefu Peng and Yan Wu are all engineering students from China who speak fluent Mandarin. The language is the most widely spoken form of Chinese and the native language of two-thirds of the country.

“We are excited to bring our basketball brand to Mandarin-speaking fans in China and the United States,” Penn Athletics Director M. Grace Calhoun said in a statement. “Enhancing our brand internationally is part of Penn Athletics’ strategic plan and doing so in China, where the University has a strong relationship dating back to the early 19th century, is one way that we can support Penn’s global objectives.”

The Quakers (15-9, 3-5 Ivy League) have a full Ivy slate before the conference tournament. They’ll host Columbia and Cornell over the weekend. Both will be broadcast in Mandarin. Following a road trip to Harvard and Dartmouth next weekend, the home games against Yale and Brown held March 8-9 will also be broadcast in Mandarin.

A big change for Wang’s family

Freshman Michael Wang averages 9.7 points per game, third best on the team, and is originally from Taiyuan, China. He’s one of three active Division I college basketball players from the country, according to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

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The 6-foot-10, 215 pound forward played at Mater Dei High School in California and was viewed as a top recruit. He told The Associated Press his parents have had a hard time listening live to the details of his games, but it hasn’t stopped them or others back home from keeping up with Penn.

“Those first couple of games, we saw the following that he had,” Penn associate athletic director Kevin Bonner told The Associated Press. “There was a large student-body contingent, even at our first game at George Mason. The administrators who were on that trip said he had almost a rock star following on a road game. We know how important basketball is in China and we think we’ve got a young man who’s going to be pretty good for us.”

Penn ‘enhances’ international brand

Penn President Amy Gutmann and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives Ezekiel Emanuel detailed the university’s “Penn Global” initiatives in the November 2018 State of the University presentation. Penn wants to “provide a global experience to every single Penn student,” “catalyze transformative ideas” and “bring the world to Penn and Penn to the world.”

The plan to broadcast in Mandarin is the athletic department’s contribution to the third pillar. The school has a longstanding relationship with China. In the 19th century Penn medical school graduates introduced Western medicine to the country, according to an NPR piece, and additional partnerships have occurred since.

Per the university, 15 percent of the student body is from countries outside the United States. Of the approximately 5,000 international students studying at Penn, per Penn Global statistics, there are 1,700 hailing from China, per the athletic department release. More than 15,000 alumni reside in China currently, per the university.

The athletic department’s initiatives also extend to the football team. The Quakers will play against the American Football League of China All-Stars on March 9 in the Penn-China Global Ambassadors Bowl in Shanghai. The team will be abroad for eight days.

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