The J. League on Tuesday announced a two-year extension of its current domestic broadcasting contract with sports streaming service DAZN, adding ¥13.9 billion ($130 million) to a landmark 10-year deal that had been thought by some to be on shaky ground due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The deal will see DAZN remain as the domestic broadcaster of the J. League’s three divisions as well as the J1 Playoff through the end of the 2028 season and raise the overall value of the deal to ¥223.9 billion ($2.1 billion).
The announcement comes as both the league and the streaming service continue to cope with the effects of the pandemic, which halted live sports around the world for several months and have significantly reduced attendances in competitions that have been able to resume.
That extends to the J. League, which unveiled its business plan through 2030 in February — only to freeze those plans later in the spring after the pandemic’s financial impact became clearer.
“The coronavirus has derailed our mid-term strategy for growth, but we can restore those plans through extending our contract with DAZN,” J. League Chairman Mitsuru Murai told an online news conference. “When the J. League and European leagues went on hold (because of COVID-19), we were in close contact with DAZN and those discussions led to this agreement.”
Speaking from London with his video feed displayed on a monitor positioned next to Murai, DAZN Acting CEO James Rushton emphasized the close relationship between the two sides and the company’s continued commitment to the league as well as Japanese sports in general.
In addition to the J. League, DAZN currently holds the domestic rights for baseball’s NPB and basketball’s B. League.
“Ultimately, business is about forging long-term partnerships. We couldn’t ask for a better partner than the J. League,” Rushton said. “We are breaking ground in an innovative risk-and-reward partnership. We are deepening our investments in core markets such as Japan because we believe in the J. League, the value of Japanese sports, and in inspiring the next generation of Japanese sports fans.”
While the extension reduces the deal’s annual value from about $200 million to roughly $175 million, Rushton insisted that it was not reflective of DAZN’s valuation of J. League content, saying that new revenue-sharing rules could see the league and its clubs profit beyond the scope of the original contract.
“(Speaking) as a CEO and as a business, DAZN would not think about entering such a partnership unless we had an absolute belief in the J. League moving forward,” said Rushton.
“It shows the level of intent we have in this market, and we are very confident that with the support of our partners, our business in Japan and around the world will bounce back very quickly to pre-COVID levels.”
The announcement marks a new chapter in the relationship between the two companies, which began in 2016 when DAZN replaced satellite broadcaster SkyPerfecTV as the league’s domestic broadcaster.
Increased revenues from the deal have not only allowed J. League clubs to spend more on players such as former Spain internationals Andres Iniesta and Fernando Torres, but have seen the league take significant leaps forward in terms of its marketing and promotional strategies.
“From when we launched DAZN in 2016, J.League content has been the core,” said DAZN Japan President Takashi Nakamura. “We want the J. League to grow and create a win-win situation for both companies.”