Softbank named top B. League partner


Staff Writer

The B. League officially revealed on Thursday that Softbank Group Corp. has become the circuit’s top partner, starting with the inaugural 2016-17 season.

Japan Basketball Association president Saburo Kawabuchi emphasized that the sport has enormous potential both globally and domestically and the participation of Softbank, a major telecom and technology company, in the new basketball enterprise will only amplify that.

“Basketball has the biggest power now (in Japan) and we would like to make every effort to make it more fun,” Kawabuchi said at a news conference at a luxury hotel in Tokyo on Thursday. “(Softbank) understood what our league’s trying to do and raised their hand.”

Kawabuchi said that Son proposed the idea of becoming a broadcaster for J. League games when the circuit was founded, but he had to turn it down because the soccer league had already signed a deal with NHK.

But their partnership has materialized two-plus decades later in a different sport. The B. League will begin play in September.

The terms of the contract between Softbank and the league were not disclosed, but a report said that the company agreed to invest around ¥12 billion in the next four years.

Softbank, however, won’t just provide financial resources, but it will largely be involved in league operations in its own field — information technology.

Son, 58, said that Softbank would stream all first and second division games, on computers, tablets and smartphones (he added that fans won’t necessarily have to be Softbank users) on a subscription basis.

Meanwhile, Son said that although Softbank would have exclusive broadcast rights, it would share them with television stations “if they are supportive of promoting the game.”

Son, the second-richest person in Japan, said that through his experience as the owner of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, he’s come to deeply acknowledge the power of sports. Softbank acquired the Pacific League baseball club in 2005 and has developed it into one of the most popular and successful teams in NPB.

“As we’ve run the Softbank Hawks, we really realized from the bottom of our heart that sports can get people really emotional,” said Son, a native of Saga Prefecture. “When we bought the Hawks 10 years ago, we thought we wanted to share the joy of sports to as many people as we could through our IT technologies. Now using the IT, we want to contribute to the B. League making great progress.”

Kawabuchi was happy that a company like Softbank will be a part of the new basketball league from a media and communication standpoint.

Link Tochigi Brex star point guard and a former NBA player Yuta Tabuse said: “It’s best that the fans will come to the games in person, but there are ones that can’t. We would be pleased that those people see us play through the IT. So I’m looking forward to seeing that happening.”