Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten has launched a new soccer-centric overseas live streaming platform in more than 140 markets, including major European territories.
The Rakuten Sports over-the-top (OTT) service hits the market with an offer initially built around the 2019 season of Japanese soccer’s domestic top-flight J League, after securing a partnership with rights agency Lagardère Sports.
The platform will also feature a video on demand (VOD) offering that includes Iniesta TV, an original content series that follows Andrés Iniesta’s journey while playing in the J League for Rakuten-owned soccer club, Vissel Kobe.
Iniesta TV is available worldwide but the J League service is being targeted at soccer fans in countries across Southeast Asia, including Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. However, it is also available in the UK, Germany, Spain, France and Brazil.
Some of the major territories excluded from the live soccer rights are Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, the Middle East and North Africa region, Canada, as well as the US.
Masaaki Kimura, senior managing director of the J League, said: “In addition to the international superstars like Andrés Iniesta and Fernando Torres playing in the league, we feel the growing global interest towards our league.
“We hope to have a positive synergy with Rakuten Sports and make the league become more attractive for all sports fans around the world to enjoy.”
In addition to soccer, Rakuten Sports plans to add to its offerings by introducing basketball, table tennis and other sports in the future.
“Rakuten believes in the power of sport to transcend language and cultural barriers – a power that connects people and creates communities,” said Makoto Arima, president of Rakuten’s media and sports company.
“Rakuten Sports represents an important part of this mission. We hope to contribute to the continued growth of the J.League by sharing what the league has to offer with soccer fans around the world."
Going forward, Rakuten says it is also planning to introduce new ‘user engagement capabilities’ that allow global sports fans to interact with content and communicate among themselves.