Professional Baseball Faces an Increase of Fans Moving Away; 51.4% of Respondents Hope for Reform of the Draft System
—NRI undertakes Internet research on public thinking about Japanese professional baseball—
December 22, 2004
Nomura Research Institute, Ltd.
Between November 25 and 28, 2004, Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. (NRI: Tokyo; Akihisa Fujinuma, President, CEO & COO) carried out an Internet survey regarding domestic professional baseball (valid response 1,180; male/female ratio 1:1). The results showed that Japanese professional baseball which has, during the past several months, been stricken by a new establishment, mergers and acquisitions of teams, strikes, and scandals is still highly popular, but there are signs of fans moving away from the game.
Respondents whose interest in professional baseball decreased during the year stood at 27.8%, the largest by sports category
When asked about changes in interest level regarding Japanese professional baseball during the past year, those responding “interest increased” and “interest the same” combined to total 52.8%; while those who responded “interest decreased” accounted for 27.8%; the highest in all sports (Fig. 1). People who responded that next season they “will watch fewer games than this season” stood at 9.5% of the total (Fig. 2). The main reasons stated were “the game has become no fun” (55.4%), “interest dampened by scandals and reorganization fuss”(46.4%), and “interest in the US Major League baseball heightened” (27.7%). Although the figures are small in comparison to the total, a move away from baseball support can clearly be seen.
As a result of the Rakuten effect, 38.8% of respondents in Tohoku responded “will watch more games next season than this season,” the top regional response
Looking at responses by region, in Tohoku, which hosts Rakuten’s first and second string teams, which will debut in the Pacific League next season, respondents who chose “will watch more games than this season” stood at 38.8%; the highest in regional terms, and no one responded “will watch fewer games than this season” (Fig. 3). Incidentally, including respondents who do not reside geographically close to any baseball team home area, it is apparent that more than half of respondents have specific favorite teams (Fig. 4). This rate is approximately twice the number of respondents who have specific favorite soccer J. League teams. This shows that support for specific teams underpins the popularity of professional baseball.
60.9% responds that they have interest in the performance of Japanese players in the Major Leagues
When asked about the frequency with which they watch professional sports games, “actively watch” was the highest for the matches of Japan’s national soccer team, with 30.6%. This also took the highest percentage when analyzed by age group. Together with the response “would watch if I had time,” only Japanese professional baseball and the Japan national soccer team’s games recorded a majority, and professional baseball still can be said to be the favorite sport of Japanese people (Fig. 5).
It became apparent that this season, during which Ichiro Suzuki, a Major League player with the Seattle Mariners, won the single season hits record, the popularity of Major League baseball in Japan soared. As can be seen in Figure 1, the sports in which the ratio of people whose interest level grew during the past year was highest for Major League baseball, standing at 33.8%. Particularly, those responding “have interest” in games and teams in which Japanese players are involved reached 60.9%. It is thus clear that in both baseball and soccer, interest in Japanese players active on the global stage is high.
When analyzed by age group, the number of respondents in their 60s and late 40s, responding that they “actively watch” baseball games was high. On the other hand, the higher the age group, the more respondents’ interest in professional baseball had “decreased” during the past year. This evidences a danger of long-time fans moving away from Japanese baseball. Furthermore, the younger the age group, the lower their interest in professional baseball, with martial arts becoming conspicuously more popular.
League management ability overwhelmingly strong in the J. League, only business advantage is regarded as superior in baseball
When professional baseball and J. League soccer were compared from the perspective of league management, the only item that respondents considered superior in baseball was “business advantage.” From this, we can assume that potential as a business was considered to be higher for professional baseball. Regarding other items, particularly “internationality” and “closeness to regional community,” a majority of respondents answered that the J. League is superior (Fig. 6).
However, when the necessity of reform in future domestic professional baseball was considered, respondents citing internationality and closeness to regional communities was not the largest. Most commonly cited as necessary factors for future professional baseball were “draft system reform” (51.4%), “fostering and discovering attractive players” (49.5%), “review of new entry barriers” (46.6%). In contrast, regarding the “shift to a one-league system” the controversy which attracted much attention this season, the percentage of respondents who thought it necessary is extremely low at 3.3% (Fig. 7). Multiple answers regarding new entries showed that 68.5% of respondents believed it was “desirable” that there should be new companies entering, while 21.6% of respondents thought that even if there were new companies entering they will “not cause a big change” (Fig. 8).
From the results of the survey, it became apparent that Japanese professional baseball has reached a major turning point regarding the maintenance or increase in its popularity. NRI believes that in the future professional baseball world, a structural reform more conscious of the perspective of management than ever before will be needed. Specifically, we consider that professional baseball will be revitalized by new companies entering to develop innovative business methods and by improvement of the quality of games by providing interesting games through such measures as draft system reform and the fostering of star players.
[For inquiries, please contact:]
Yukako Seto / Takeshi Nomura
Corporate Communications Department
Nomura Research Institute, Ltd.
Survey on Professional Baseball
Date of survey: November 25 –28, 2004
Survey method: Internet questionnaire survey (infoQ)
Number of responses: 1,180
(For attributes and other details, refer to: http://www.nri.co.jp/english/opinion/nr/pdf/nr20041222.pdf)
Figure.1 Changes in the interest level in professional Japanese baseball this past year
Figure. 2 Willingness to watch Japanese professional baseball games next season
Figure. 3 Willingness to watch Japanese professional baseball games next season (by region)
Figure. 4 Whether there are specific favorite teams in Japanese professional baseball and J. League soccer
Figure. 5 Professional sports watching/listening via TV, radio, the Internet, etc.
Figure. 6 Comparison of Japanese professional baseball and J. League soccer in terms of management
Figure. 7 Factors needed for future professional baseball (multiple answers)
Figure. 8 On team owner-company changes in Japanese professional baseball from next season (multiple answers)
*This questionnaire was conducted utilizing the "infoQ" Internet research service, which is operated jointly by the NRI and GMO Media and Solutions Inc. ( http://infoq.jp).
Copyright(c) 2004 Nomura Research Institute, Ltd. All rights reserved.
No reproduction or republication without written permission.