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Networks Cater to Foreign Appetite for Japanese TV

November 22, 1999

The Japanese television industry, which traditionally has been much more of an importer of news items than an exporter, is making an aggressive push to market its own broadcasts overseas. In order to meet increasing demand from abroad for information related to Japan, TV networks are stepping up the distribution of content aimed at foreign markets.

Stirring Up Competition
Though Japan enjoys a favorable trade balance in many industries, it lags considerably behind in the field of information, where its import of news and other material far surpass its export quantity. Overseas broadcasting by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) and the Fuji Television Network caters primarily to Japanese people residing abroad. NHK World TV, which has been on the air since 1995 and can be viewed via parabolic antenna unit in various parts of the world as well as through local cable providers in large cities, covers some 98% of the Japanese expatriate population. Fuji Television's overseas broadcasting service, begun in 1982, likewise serves as an important source of information for Japanese living overseas.

The Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) and the Nippon Television Network (NTV), meanwhile, started their own services in 1999 in response to demand from overseas broadcasting companies for Japanese material. Since July TBS has been providing select news items to three stations in Chinese Taipei (Taiwan); it is also in the experimental stages of offering similar coverage to broadcasters in Korea. The network chooses political, economic, and other topics expected to be of interest to viewers in Asia and delivers the content in both Japanese and English. Though the news is provided only on weekdays for 10 minutes per day, the receiving stations are free to edit the material for use in their regular broadcasts. This fee-based regular distribution of footage to overseas companies is a first for a privately owned Japanese broadcasting network.

Growing Audience for Japanese Sports
Since April NTV has been marketing broadcasts of professional baseball games to local television networks in Asia as well as directly to Japanese viewers residing overseas. The station's baseball broadcasting rights are limited to games involving the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, but thanks to a blossoming of baseball's popularity in Korea and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), networks in these regions broadcast the games live with commentary in the viewing nations' languages. In addition to baseball, NTV caters to the overseas appetite for Japanese sports with real-time coverage of golf and soccer.

Japan's broadcasting networks are still in the experimental stages of feeling out the preferences of their overseas audience. Takashi Motomura, vice president of the TBS news network department, says that his station will be working to further enrich its offerings after determining what types of material from Japan are eliciting the greatest interest abroad. With Japan's networks becoming more aggressive in their overseas marketing, television programming from Japan looks poised to make its presence felt around the world.

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.