J1 League to anchor launch of Rakuten Sports

Japanese ecommerce and internet company Rakuten launched a global live streaming and video on demand sports platform on Tuesday that will have the J1 League, the top tier of domestic club football, as its initial main offering.

The platform, called Rakuten Sports, will provide viewers with J1 League matches commencing with the ongoing 2019 season.

Rakuten has partnered with the Lagardère Sports agency, international media rights distributor of the J1 League, to distribute matches to fans in more than 140 countries and regions worldwide, excluding Japan and select regions.

The new service is designed to appeal to football fans in Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and other countries in Southeast Asia, where the J.League’s fan base is steadily growing.

J1 League matches will be viewable via Rakuten Sports worldwide, with the exception of the following markets: Algeria, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei, Canada, Chad, China, Croatia, Djibouti, Egypt, FYR Macedonia, Hong Kong, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Macao, Mauritania, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Republic of Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Korea, South Sudan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United States and Yemen.

In addition to football, Rakuten plans to introduce basketball, table tennis and other sports. Rakuten Sports is also targetting new user engagement capabilities that will allow global sports fans to interact with the content while communicating with other fans in “new, innovative ways”.

Lagardère Sports said it initiated the J1 League content partnership by providing Rakuten with a tailor-made concept, the media rights and sustainable activation ideas.

Nikolaus von Doetinchem, executive vice-president of global media at Lagardère Sports, said: “It’s also a great example of how media rights can be deployed to engage more fans all over the world in innovative ways and  which in this case will grow exposure for the J.League internationally and support Rakuten in leveraging their strategic investment in the league.”