Rakuten forges NBA distribution deal in Japan | Deals | News | Rapid TV News
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The National Basketball Association (NBA) has sealed a deal with online giant Rakuten for the distribution of its live games in Japan.

Rakuten NBA partnership 10 October 2017The premium live game subscription video service NBA League Pass will be exclusively offered to Rakuten’s members and further league coverage will be provided via video-on-demand (VOD) service Rakuten TV. The latter will provide nine games per week: one each weekday and two on Saturdays and Sundays, with Japanese announcers. NBA League Pass provides access to all the games, and can be subscribed to via NBA.com, the NBA App or Rakuten TV.

In addition, the Japanese company’s instant messaging platform Rakuten Viber will be an official platform for the NBA, providing access to league basketball content to more than 900 million users.

“Rakuten is one of the world’s most innovative companies and an ideal partner for the NBA,” said Adam Silver, commissioner, NBA. “This relationship is very special for us because it would be the most comprehensive coverage of the NBA ever in Japan.”

The content and marketing deal follows the announcement last month that the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors would carry the Rakuten logo on their team jerseys during the 2017-18 season.

Part of Rakuten’s expansion into the sports arena, the partnership marks its first involvement with a North American professional league. The Japanese Internet firm has already secured a high-profile shirt sponsorship deal with Barcelona FC, worth US$58 million a year to the Spanish football club.

Rakuten founder and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said: “Sports make people happier, and have the power to overcome the boundaries of countries. Whether you are an athlete or a fan, you get special emotions and bonds through sports. So we are not just looking at the business aspect but think that we can contribute to creating better societies.”

Japan was the first country to host an NBA regular season game outside North Amercia in 1990-91, with regular games played there through the 1990s. However, the country has not hosted an NBA game since 2003. The partnership with Rakuten could help bring NBA games back to Japan, Silver told reporters in Tokyo.

Japanese TV networks NHK and WOWOW have previously aired NBA games, and Rakuten is reported now negotiating terms to sublicense its broadcasting rights.