OTT & Digital

NBA and Rakuten launch Japanese live game streaming platform

New Rakuten NBA OTT platform to include NBA League Pass during 2019/20 season.

by Steven Impey

NBA and Rakuten launch Japanese live game streaming platform

Ecommerce giant Rakuten has announced it will live stream every game from the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) 2019/20 season in Japan via a newly launched NBA Rakuten over-the-top (OTT) service.

Utilising its exclusive Japanese broadcast partnership, the company’s new platform will merge NBA-related content from the Rakuten TV service with the North American basketball league’s digital subscription platform, NBA League Pass.

Since becoming a global marketing partner of the NBA in 2017, Rakuten has extended its ties with the league as a partner of the Golden State Warriors franchise, with star player Steph Curry among its global ambassadors.

The NBA Rakuten service will serve as a one-stop destination for Japanese fans to watch NBA games and programming, including access to official NBA players and teams statistics and players.

The service also includes a new live chat feature that allows for user-to-user conversations during games in real time. In addition to game broadcasts, NBA Rakuten will also provide original content, including a talk show called ‘Oretachi no NBA’, which means ‘Our NBA’, as well as the launch of its own NBA News Network.

The new NBA Rakuten platform was revealed ahead of the first NBA pre-season match held in Japan for 16 years, as reigning champions the Toronto Raptors rallied to beat the Houston Rockets in Tokyo on 9th October.

Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, said that his visit to Japan allowed him to learn more about Rakuten’s streaming business and welcomed the launch of NBA Rakuten.

Meanwhile, Rakuten’s chief executive Mickey Mikitani said that “if you look at the data, the most-played sport among junior high school and high school [students] in Japan is basketball”, adding that the company’s OTT tie-up with the NBA was a “huge opportunity”.

Subscribers will be able to choose from four different payment plans to access the service, including single-game purchases, while an annual subscription fee of 19,800 yen (US$ 184.75) for unlimited access to live games will be available at half price temporarily, and a monthly fee of 990 yen (US$9.24) will include a free trial for the first month.