The J. League on Tuesday announced a global distribution deal through the newly launched Rakuten Sports streaming service.
The platform, which is currently available for free, will stream three first-division matches per round to over 140 countries through Rakuten’s partnership with rights holder Lagardere Sports. According to a Rakuten news release, marketing efforts will be focused on Southeast Asia, where the J. League has seen a rise in popularity in recent years thanks to the success of players from the region.
“Rakuten believes that sports can overcome the boundaries of language and culture to connect people and develop communities,” said Rakuten chief resource officer Makoto Arima in the release. “We want to share the J. League’s appeal with soccer fans around the world and increase its fanbase.”
The announcement is a long-awaited one for fans of the J. League based outside of Japan, where legal broadcasts have been few and far between in the year since the arrival of former Barcelona captain Andres Iniesta to Rakuten-owned Vissel Kobe.
“In the last few years, a number of famous players such as Iniesta and Fernando Torres have joined the league and attention from overseas has increased,” said J. League managing director Masaaki Kimura. “We want to raise the global value of the J. League and introduce the competition to more fans.”