Rakuten builds NBA presence with league partnership

Japanese e-commerce firm Rakuten has furthered its ties to the NBA by agreeing a multi-year media and marketing partnership with the basketball league.

Rakuten becomes the league’s exclusive distribution partner in Japan for all live NBA games and a global marketing partner of the NBA. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the USA Today newspaper said it is worth more than $225m (€187.8m). The deal marks the NBA’s most comprehensive media partnership in Japan and Rakuten’s first 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.

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.

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 membership-based online cash-back site in the US.

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 deal comes after Rakuten, whose North American headquarters are situated in San Francisco, last month agreed a three-year contract worth a reported $20m per season to become the jersey sponsor of NBA franchise the Golden State Warriors.

“Rakuten is one of the world’s most innovative companies and an ideal partner for the NBA,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “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.”