During the season, the question I am most frequently asked is “how can I watch Japanese baseball games?” Unfortunately NPB’s online media efforts to date aren’t quite on part with mlb.tv; this is an area where NPB collectively should take a good, hard look at what MLB Advanced Media has done and try to emulate it. But fortunately, there are a few options out there:
- The Pacific League streams games online via it’s Pa League TV service (link to a Japanese site). It costs JPY 1500 (about $15) per month, and I haven’t tried it in previous seasons because it tends to be unavailable outside Japan. They do have highlights that I’ve been able to watch so far this year, however. Since this is a Pacific League service, Central League games (except for interleague) are not broadcast.
- American cable tv network One World Sports began broadcasting Yomiuri Giants home games last season, both live and on tape delay. This would be a great option for many US viewers, but unfortunately One World Sports doesn’t seem to be widely carried on cable systems yet. They do provide programming online, so hopefully that includes Giants games this year.
- Some teams officially stream some of their games and workouts. Here are the ones I know of: Softbank Hawks, Chunichi Dragons, Pacific League.
- Less officially, it’s pretty easy to find games streamed on services like justin.tv and ustream.tv. Twitter users such as @spartiecat and @yakyunightowl frequently tweet out the streams they find, and the Reddit NPB wiki includes a guide for finding streams. Justin.tv archives broadcasts for some users, which is helpful for people like me who can’t necessarily watch games in the Japanese time zone.
- And last but not least, while this is not live video, blog sites We Love Marines and Tokyo Swallows post game reports for Lotte and Yakult respectively.
The normal disclaimer goes here: if there’s another option I’ve neglected to include, please drop me a line.
Using a combination of all these techniques, a US-based yakyu otaku like me can reasonably watch NPB a couple times a week. What I would really like to have is a paid service, with every game in both leagues available live and on demand available without geographic restrictions, that works on my TV, computer, iPhone and iPad. If something like that was available I would gladly pay about JPY 20,000 ($200) a year for it. Pa League TV is reasonably priced though; if that works outside of Japan once the regular season begins I’ll probably give it a shot.