The J.League is spreading throughout Asia--on TV, at least.
Japan's professional soccer league is set to allow its matches to be broadcast weekly via terrestrial TV stations in four Southeast Asian nations, starting with the opening game of the upcoming season in March.
The J.League has struck a deal with broadcasters in Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia to air matches in those countries.
The J.League will not charge the local TV stations to broadcast the games for the time being, but will instead earn profits through the rights to air TV commercials and sponsorship fees for the matches, both granted by the TV stations. The J.League has started negotiating with Japanese companies that focus on the Asian market as those companies are likely to have a strong interest in airing TV commercials and securing sponsorship deals in the region.
While the J.League will produce the match video to broadcast in the four countries, local TV stations will add their own play-by-play commentary and analysis to the broadcasts. Games will also be aired live twice a month.
"I believe this will be Japan's first strategic attempt to market Japanese pro sports overseas," said a senior J.League official. "If more overseas TV stations seek to broadcast Japanese soccer in their countries, we will likely seek broadcasting fees as part of the payment in future projects."
J.League soccer games have been aired overseas as pay TV programs via satellite broadcasting networks. Japanese soccer players have increasingly become recognized outside Japan and are highly rated among soccer fans in Southeast Asia.
Japan's national team has chalked up some impressive results in international tournaments, and Southeast Asian fans have witnessed some good performances by Japanese players, both playing in the region and also playing for top clubs in Europe.
Due to the increasing popularity of Japanese soccer outside Japan, the J.League initiated negotiations with authorities from the four Southeast Asian nations, feeling that soccer fans in those countries would likely watch Japanese soccer if it was broadcast free of charge on terrestrial TV.
In pursuing the project, the J.League also intends to project itself as part of the "Cool Japan" culture, which generally refers to things such as manga and anime, to boost its profile in the region.
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