EPL broadcasts in Japan started 10 games late

Pay-TV broadcaster J Sports has signed an exclusive three-year contract with Sportfive to show live English Premier League matches in Japan until the end of the 2009-10 season. This follows competitor Sky Perfect dropping EPL because of increasing costs and leaving fans wondering whether there would be live coverage in Japan this season. The J Sports deal did not conclude in time for the opening weekend, forcing many fans to watch the first round of games via the Internet or through illegal displays at pubs. This was anticipated by James Mulligan of The Japan Times who wrote last week that the lack of live satellite coverage "could cause difficulties for businesses such as pubs and bars that depend on live soccer coverage for attracting customers. There are some ingenious ways around this, though. Some bars will no doubt try to show games using Internet coverage. In Tokyo, Mark Spencer, owner of the Hobgoblin pubs and Legends Bar, will use a South African Internet channel called Supersport to show live Premier League games in his pubs and bars and said the picture quality is high."

Sportfive owns the EPL rights in Japan and was the party negotiating with broadcasters for the highest bid that ended up not including the first 10 games of the season. "The deal we agreed with J Sports represents a continuation of our excellent partnership in the past", said Sportfive executive vice president Robert Müller von Vultejus. EPL CEO Richard Scudamore also praised the system. “We are very satisfied with the result of Sportfive’s distribution of our rights. We welcome J Sports to the circle of partners of the English Premier League. We are looking forward to working together in the future,” he said.