NPB needs to compete with MLB for domestic stars or watch talent drain continue
TOKYO — The NPB is entering its 97th season in 2022 and appears to be in relatively good shape despite experiencing a temporary pandemic downturn, which saw attendance fall to 7,840,773 in 2021 from an all-time high of 26,540,000 in 2019 with a corresponding drop in revenue from around ¥180 billion.
MLB teams, experienced a similar drop: attendance down 34% from a 2019 total of 68.5 million and a similar drop in revenue from a 2019 total of $10 billion. But MLB teams are all purely-for profit operations that make 40% of their total earnings from local and national media, need a strong pandemic-free season in 2022. Japanese teams, by contrast, which count more on ticket sales, sponsorships and merchandise sales rather than TV revenue which has been declining, have powerful parent companies —Rakuten, SoftBank and Seibu, Orix, Lotte and Yakult — and don’t have to worry as much about the balance sheets as do MLB teams.
NPB clubs have been adding new wrinkles to help the bottom line, such as the SoftBank Hawks, showing their games in virtual reality, through the 5G Lab content streaming service, and, Nippon Ham hiring oddball showman Tsuyoshi Shinjo to manage their team.
But they could be doing more.