The NBA and Rakuten have announced a multiyear partnership that makes Rakuten the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan for all live NBA games. The agreement also represents the company’s first partnership with a North American sports league.
This season, 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. NBA League Pass will allow fans to watch all NBA games including preseason, regular-season and playoffs games, NBA All-Star, 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.
“We are very excited to partner with the NBA to bring all the action of the world’s top basketball league to fans in Japan,” said Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani, founder and CEO of Rakuten, Inc. “As we have recently announced that we are proud partners of the Golden State Warriors, the NBA’s reigning champions, it is an honor to expand our contributions to the global growth and development of basketball with this NBA partnership.”
“Rakuten is one of the world’s most innovative companies and an ideal partner for the NBA,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Our new relationship with Rakuten speaks to the appetite that our passionate fans in Japan have for live NBA games and content, and we look forward to working with Rakuten to provide the most comprehensive NBA coverage to date.”
The global marketing partnership also allows Rakuten to create NBA and team zones, and sell select 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.
Rakuten Viber, Rakuten’s instant messaging platform, will also become an official platform for the NBA and its teams, providing their more than 900 million users with access to league content.
The NBA’s presence in Japan dates back almost 30 years. NBA games and programming have been on-the-air since the 1988-89 season, and officially licensed NBA merchandise is widely available at more than 180 Xebio stores across Japan. The league has conducted a number of events in Japan, including 12 regular-season games in three cities, interactive fan events, NBA Cares community outreach initiatives, and in 2012, Basketball without Borders, the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program.
Rakuten’s professional sport portfolio includes ownership of Japan’s Vissel Kobe soccer club and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles baseball team, which won the national Japan Series Championship in 2013. In July 2017, the company also became the Main Global Partner and Official Innovation and Entertainment Partner for soccer club FC Barcelona.