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Tokyo: What do you make of the Japan Sumo Association’s decision to charge fans $120 to watch live tournaments online?

by Mark Buckton

The Japan Sumo Association has just introduced a pay-per-view system for live streams of top tournaments. Costing $10 per day and $15 for the final day, or $120 for the entire tournament, the concept drew sharp criticism from overseas fans.

Simon Broneske
Engineering intern, 23 (German)

There are not many fans in the EU, and for those who are there, the association realizes it can charge for the service. That’s the way of business in and around sports. Other sports are usually pay-per-view in one way, shape or form. Why not sumo too?

Allison A.
Housewife, 30 (American)

As it is already televised, it is a shame you have to pay to see it online. If the Japan Sumo Association is trying to get people to come and see sumo, then more exposure (online and at no charge) should help in getting people to come here to see it live.

Grant Nelson
Civil designer, 24 (Australian)

It’s a bit of a steep increase to go from zero to as much as $120 per tournament and as a result, I think the sport will lose fans rather than attract new viewers. They will also lose casual watchers, too, who might have otherwise got into it.

AJ A.
Engineer, 29 (American)

Charging so much may end up limiting exposure in other nations and harm efforts in trying to increase awareness abroad. Whether the $120 fee is justified or not is one issue, but it may be cleverer to reduce that to help with access to foreign markets.

Kazuko Okabe
Teacher, 31 (Japanese)

Sumo’s worth paying for, but looking at sports such as soccer, sumo or baseball, I see baseball as worth most in terms of pay-per-view, as baseball players tend to be more interesting than soccer players or rikishi — except for Osunaarashi, who’s unique.

Tamas Beliszky
Student, 33 (Hungarian)

That’s a hard one to answer as I am not a long-term fan, but being a fan of another type of more difficult and more technical wrestling, I think, why charge when it is so simple? Instead, they should look at other ways of making money, such as video ads.

Interested in gathering views in your neighborhood? E-mail community@japantimes.co.jp

  • phu

    I think this is a failure to understand their target audience.

    Consider the people who would pay to watch ANYTHING over the internet. There are basically two schools: Netflix/Hulu/Crunchyroll users and smartphone/tablet fiends.

    The former are used to paying in the neighborhood of $10 per month to get unlimited streaming access to a huge variety of content. The latter are almost universally unwilling to pay more than $2 for anything (unless it’s a microtransaction, at which points all bets are off).

    Of course there are other groups, and this is an oversimplification, but I believe it gets at the heart of the matter: As AJ A. says, regardless of the quality of the content being delivered, the price will be perceived as too steep and is extremely unlikely to result in more viewership. Dropping the price point significantly, or making it free with ads, as Tamas Beliszky suggests, could be more effective alternatives for reaching spending-averse individuals.

    On the other hand, offering such a package to Japanese businesses abroad, like restaurants and bars (or overseas offices of Japanese companies that want to give their employees some home-style entertainment) could both command a higher price and simultaneously reach more people at once.

  • Rick Vansloneker

    I am not surprised that has happened. I’m a European viewer and got to know Sumo from the Eurosport broadcasts, which have vanished.

    For years I had to do with the one minute reports on NHK world news which also have vanished.
    They refuse to broadcast the tournaments on NHK world.
    A subscription to the regular NHK channel costs a ridiculous amount of money, more the all adult channels combined.

    When I discovered the live stream I was happy but I had my thoughts which unfortunately now became true.

    The price of $120 to view the tournament is totally blatant. I can’t afford that. In relation to the stil mediocre quality of the live stream it misses any point.
    The Japan Sumo Association apparently is not interested in the worldwide Sumo fan base.

    I have a lot of respect for the Japanese, but always have in mind they do weird things. Their ruthless attitude in WW2, the killing of whales, they have a dark side on them.