The Japanese national team, already on the brink of qualifying for next year’s World Cup after a tough start with two wins and two losses, will play away games against Vietnam and Oman on Thursday, November 11 and Tuesday, November 16.
Both of these games will be important matches that Japan cannot afford to lose, but only DAZN, a pay-per-view video distribution service, will broadcast these two games in Japan. Unfortunately, the terrestrial broadcasters, which are available to the public for free, only have the right to broadcast the home matches and not the away matches.
For many years, the Japanese national soccer team has been the killer content for terrestrial broadcasters. At the same time, the sport of soccer was widely recognized by the Japanese people, which led to an explosive increase in the number of soccer players, especially among children who were influenced by the sport.
He said, “The (Japanese) national team matches should be accessible to everyone. I’m sorry.”
With only home matches of the final Asian qualifying round for the World Cup being broadcast on terrestrial broadcasting, it is not surprising that the president of the Japan Football Association (JFA), Kozo Tajima, is filled with regret.
The current situation of the bloated broadcasting rights bubble
A number of factors are behind the fact that Japan’s national team matches, which used to be available on terrestrial broadcasting, are now only available in some pay-per-view areas.
First of all, there is the large-scale broadcasting rights contract that the AFC (Asian Football Confederation), the distributor of broadcasting rights, signed with DDMC Fortis, a joint venture between China and Switzerland, in 2018. DDMC Fortis, later branded as Football Marketing Asia (FMA) for Asian soccer, purchased the broadcasting rights for AFC-hosted tournaments for a total of US$2-2.4 billion over the eight-year period from 2021-28. This is a huge contract of about US$275 million per year,
At the time, China was in the midst of a “bomb buying” boom in the soccer world. At the time, China was in the midst of a “bomb-buying” boom in the world of soccer, paying huge transfer fees to lure top players to the Super League, and several Chinese companies became the main sponsors of FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), making soccer a major investment for them.
In contrast to the steadily rising Chinese economy, Japan’s economic power has been declining. In addition to the gap in economic conditions, the year 2020 will see a worldwide outbreak of coronavirus. The broadcasting rights package has become an even more inaccessible “property”.
In the end, Japanese terrestrial broadcasters raised the white flag, and in August of this year, DAZN, in which a subsidiary of Dentsu holds a part of the shares, announced that it had acquired the broadcasting rights for the final Asian qualifying round of the World Cup. In the evening of the same day, TV Asahi, which had broadcast rights until the previous tournament, announced that it would broadcast only the five home matches against Japan.
In any case, even though it is a paid video distribution service, if DAZN had not landed in Japan, there is no denying the possibility that Japanese soccer fans would not have been able to watch their country’s national team matches.
The question is the future of Japanese soccer.
More than 20 years have passed since the Japanese national soccer team became a national icon
In such a situation, the Japanese soccer world, which has been growing steadily thanks to the professionalization of the game, is now at a crossroads, and it is not impossible that it could quickly go from stagnation to a downward spiral if it is steered wrongly.
For example, the JFA and the Japan Consortium (a group of terrestrial broadcasters organized to broadcast the World Cup and the Olympics) could pool funds to acquire broadcasting rights before the next World Cup qualifying round.
At the very least, there is no future for Japanese soccer if we just sit back and watch.
Reporting and writing by： Jun Nakayama