NBA fans in Japan have a lot to be excited about. Not only does the coming season promise to be one of the most exciting in years, but there will be more ways than ever to keep track of all the action.
At a press conference held today in Tokyo, Rakuten and the National Basketball Association announced an exclusive partnership that will see Rakuten provide NBA coverage across Japan in a deal that marks the league’s most comprehensive media partnership in Japan and Rakuten’s first with a North American sports league. The agreement will also see Rakuten become a global marketing partner of the NBA.
In front of Japanese and international media at Rakuten’s Tokyo headquarters, Rakuten Crimson House, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and Rakuten Founder and CEO Mickey “Mickey” Mikitani, along with a host of top executives from both organizations, announced the historic partnership.“Since our founding, Rakuten has always had a deep connection with sports,” said Mikitani. “Whether you are a player or a fan, I believe the experience and emotions of sports and the strong bonds of friendship they create will bring us not only business benefits but a better society in the future.”
“Through this partnership with the NBA, we aim to contribute to the further growth and development of basketball both in Japan and around the world,” added Mikitani.
“We’re absolutely thrilled to be beginning this relationship with Mickey and Rakuten, one of the world’s most innovative companies,” said Adam Silver. “This relationship is very special for us because it will be the most comprehensive coverage of the NBA ever in Japan.”
To boost basketball in the country, Rakuten will offer NBA LEAGUE PASS, the league’s premium live game subscription service, exclusively to Rakuten members in Japan through NBA.com, the NBA App and for purchase through Rakuten’s video-on-demand service, Rakuten TV. The NBA LEAGUE PASS allows fans to watch all NBA games including preseason, regular-season and playoffs games, the NBA All-Star game, NBA Conference Finals and The Finals, in addition to other exclusive programming.
Rakuten will also offer a subscription package on Rakuten TV, providing fans with access to nine games a week, one game per weekday and two games each on Saturdays and Sundays.
Rakuten Viber, Rakuten’s instant messaging platform with over 900 million users, will also become an official platform for the NBA and its teams, enabling all teams to engage with fans.
At the press conference, Yasufumi Hirai, Rakuten’s CIO, CISO and President of the Media & Communications Company, expressed his excitement at the prospect of growing the game in Japan. “Rakuten’s services and technology will be utilized to further increase the popularity of the NBA in Japan. We look forward to providing new and moving experiences in the sports and entertainment sphere.”
In addition, the global marketing partnership allows Rakuten to create NBA zones and sell NBA and team merchandise on its e-commerce channels globally, including Rakuten Ichiba in Japan and Ebates, a leading membership-based online cash-back site in the U.S.
The partnership comes at a time when the popularity of basketball is on the rise in Japan. “Today there are more than 630,000 basketball players in Japan,” said Kono. “This is a sport loved by people from all walks of life and all generations and we couldn’t be more pleased to launch this partnership.”
Today’s announcement comes only a month after Rakuten announced a partnership with reigning NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors. Beginning from the 2017-2018 NBA season, Rakuten became Golden State’s first-ever jersey-badge partner.
With two major NBA-related announcements coming in just the last month, a local journalist made sure to ask the question on everyone’s mind: Will the NBA come to Japan to hold a regular season game?
Silver’s response left no doubt: “Playing games here on Japanese soil is a priority for both of us and we will get to work on it immediately.”
“And the players want to come,” added Mikitani.
“They do. They love to be here,” responded Silver.
Let the games begin!