Multinational sports broadcaster Eleven Sports has entered its 11th market by launching an over-the-top (OTT) streaming service in Japan.
The new platform will be rolled out on 16th March with free live coverage of the local Eastern and Western League of the NPB Farm Leagues, Japan's minor league baseball competitions.
Eleven has agreed rights deals independently with seven of the league's 12 teams, meaning the home games of Orix Buffaloes, Saitama Seibu Lions, Chiba Lotte Marines, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Hanshin Tigers, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Yokohama DeNA Baystars will all be shown on the service.
Eleven, which was founded by Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani, has also committed to providing digital content including highlights, match reports and news updates in order to increase the coverage of the NPB Farm Leagues.
In total, Eleven's Japanese streaming service will house approximately 500 live NPB Farm League games between March and October this year. The coverage will be available for free on PC and smartphones.
“Baseball is hugely popular in Japan and we are very excited to be bringing unprecedented coverage of the NPB Farm Leagues to fans across the country for free," said Suhyeon Cho, Eleven's managing director in Japan.
"Some games from the league have been broadcast previously, but Eleven Sports will break new ground by streaming such a large volume of matches at a level never seen before.
“We are looking forward to working with the teams to grow the exposure of the NPB Farm leagues locally. We are also aiming to add further content to our service as we aim to build a compelling ad-funded model that serves local fans with local sport.”
Eleven is already operational in ten territories – Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg, Myanmar, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Taiwan, the UK and Ireland and the US – where it operates a mix of linear television and over-the-top (OTT) services.
News of Eleven's plans to launch in Japan comes after Marc Watson, the company's executive chairman and group chief executive, revealed last month that the network was eyeing up moves into two new markets.
“The launch of Eleven Sports in Japan marks the evolution of our digital strategy as we continue to explore new ways to make top quality sport accessible, and in this case, free for fans," added Anouk Mertens, Eleven's chief operating officer.
"This differs from the premium model that has been highly successful for Eleven Sports in several markets globally, but we are very confident that this innovative digital approach will be very appealing for fans and for commercial partners.”
Sports streaming subscription service DAZN is also operational in Japan having launched in the country in 2016. The company has since acquired rights to an array of premium content including the Uefa Champions League, Formula One and Nippon Professional Baseball, the top level of the sport in Japan.
Eleven's entry into Japan could see it go head to head with DAZN for premium rights in the same market for the first time, although it is not yet clear what Eleven will look to add to its coverage of the NPB Farm Leagues.