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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Japan Program Catalog - BEAJ

Programming Profile

Japan surfs the OTT wave as content exports rise

01-02-2022

Yukiko Kimishima from the Broadcast Programme Export Association of Japan reveals how demand for Japanese content soared during 2021 and looks at the year ahead, while also showcasing a new slate of Japanese programming.

 

2021 was a banner year for the export of Japanese television programming. The ongoing streaming revolution, thanks in part to all the lockdowns worldwide, was a major factor driving this trend, says Yukiko Kimishima, chief executive of business management at the Broadcast Programme Export Association of Japan (BEAJ).

 

Kimishima
Yukiko Kimishima, BEAJ

“Last year definitely boosted the exposure and the reach of Japanese content, particularly of Japanese drama, beyond its traditional markets,” she says. “As the pandemic has seen a tremendous increase of streaming usage, and with the launch of new streaming platforms, the demand for Japanese content has soared.”

 

As evidence, Kimishima points to deals inked between Netflix and Japanese broadcasters TBS and Nippon TV, for drama titles including Japan Sinks, The Future Diary, Let’s Get Divorced and I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper, while the global streamer also ordered Japanese originals The Naked Director and Alice in Borderland.

 

Other drama highlights from last year include Disney+ picking up its first Japanese series for its global audience, TBS series TOKYO MER: Mobile Emergency Room, while WOWOW’s Behind the Door was sold to Arte in France and Germany. TV Asahi’s Doctor X clocked up its 100th territory, with deals across Asia and in previously untapped markets in Eastern Europe and Latin America.

 

Japan’s experiments with new forms of scripted content also paid off, with Amazon Prime Video and Chinese streamer Bilibili acquiring Asahi Broadcasting’s shortform romcom I’m Gonna Marry After 48 Days, which played out as daily two-minute episodes for 49 days.

 

Hideaki Anno: The Final Challenge of Evangelion
Hideaki Anno: The Final Challenge of Evangelion

The list of Japanese drama exports last year is a long one, but the 2021 boom wasn’t limited to drama. NHK documentary Hideaki Anno: The Final Challenge of Evangelion was sold to Prime Video worldwide, for example, while Kansai TV’s Budget Trip in Japan launched a second season that aired on ASEAN channel Gem TV.

 

As for other genres of content, Kimishima says: “The pandemic has had a mixed impact on the sales of non-scripted formats. The business seems to have been impacted, with fewer launches of original shows throughout the world, partly because the shooting conditions have not helped develop the kind of IP that will take the world by storm.”

 

Nevertheless, there were some notable success stories in the formats space last year. Nippon TV’s Dragons’ Den (aka Shark Tank) returned to M6 in France in January, clocking up an extraordinary 48% market share on the 15-34 age demographic for the channel (not to mention its 45th local production). New seasons of Ninja Warriors are also being prepared, produced or aired in key territories, such as the US, Australia, the UK and France, where a sixth season launched in January.

 

The Hovering Blade
The Hovering Blade

The BBC is also piloting Nippon’s action-packed gameshow format Block Out, co-developed with Germany’s Red Arrow Studios, with the same format already sold into Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Spain and Holland. There were also many new deals for fellow Japanese unscripted formats Sokkuri Sweets (Nippon TV), What’s Wrong With Being Wily? (TV Asahi) and The Rolling Kitchen (Yomiuri TV) last year.

 

“Several Japanese companies have noticed increased interest from territories like Europe for their formats during the pandemic, even if sales haven’t been finalised yet,” adds Kimishima, also pointing to the runaway success of Nippon scripted formats Mother and Woman: My Life for My Children, which have gone on to air in almost 50 countries around the world, a first for a format from Japan.

 

Summing up Japan’s content exports for last year, the BEAJ chief explains: “Dramas, variety shows and anime remain extremely popular in Asia, particularly in Taiwan and Hong Kong, where drama series are often simulcast on local channels. Chinese platforms such as Bilibili are also giving huge exposure to Japanese content.”

 

$$$ Mansion: Can You Keep the Cash?
$$$ Mansion: Can You Keep the Cash?

Beyond Asia, “anime, formats and remakes are the most popular genres, with sales to Europe and the US. Overall, anime remains the leading genre, accounting for roughly 80% of Japanese exports.”

 

Looking ahead, Kimishima sees two trends combining to benefit future Japanese exports: the reduced impact of the pandemic on the Japanese production pipeline and the industry-wide trend for non-English-language content.

 

“Japan has not gone into a strict lockdown so the impact of the pandemic on production has not been as severe as in other countries. It was mostly felt in the spring of 2020, when many productions were put on hold. Since then, companies have adjusted to a new normal.” Some Japanese formats were even developed with remote participation in mind, such as ‘Covid-proof’ shows Quiz: Pinch Hitter from Fuji TV and Nippon TV’s online-only drama series Double Booking.

 

Dearest
Dearest

As for the boom in non-English-language content, “Japan is benefiting from the seemingly endless opportunities of the streaming revolution, which has generated a boom in non-English-language content,” Kimishima says. “From specialised services such as Crunchyroll for anime to mainstream platforms like Amazon Prime or Netflix, including local or regional players like Bilibili in China, Japanese content is proving popular and is reaching new audiences. With the launch of new streaming services worldwide, the demand for Japanese content is only growing stronger.”

 

With all this in mind, BEAJ is lining up a new slate of titles to showcase on C21’s Digital Screenings this week, as well as on a revamped website for Japan Program Catalog. From public broadcaster NHK Enterprises comes dramas The 13 Lords of the Shogun and Thus Spoke Kishibe Rohan, while Nippon TV’s Mute It! and Mother are also on the slate, the latter being “certainly the best-selling format from Asia at the moment,” says Kimishima.

 

All But Divorced
All But Divorced

My Neighbor Chikara and Dear My Loneliness & Darkness, both from TV Asahi, and Dearest from TBS are being showcased too, as are All But Divorced from TV Tokyo, Fuji TV gameshow $$$ Mansion: Can You Keep the Cash? and two Wowow titles: The Hovering Blade and Behind the Door.

 

In the Middle of Nowhere from ABC Frontier is listed as well, alongside Budget Trip in Japan from Kansai TV, Play Innocent from Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation and Wonder Food ¬– From Fiction to Reality from Chukyo TV Broadcasting.

 

Rounding out the slate are Tokai Television Broadcasting’s Mr Good-looking and Old Jack & Rose, and Mainichi Broadcasting System dramas Melancholy of the Betrayed and My Beautiful Man, the latter having been licensed to Asian streamers WE tv, Drama Korea, Viki and GagaOOLala.

 

Play Innocent
Play Innocent

But while exporting programming is a major part of Japanese broadcasters’ expansion plans, it is not the only way they are working with the global market. Co-development is fast becoming an equally important strategy for exporting Japanese creativity.

 

TBS, for instance, has entered into agreements with CJ ENM in South Korea and with Smart Dog Media in the US to create new formats for the global market. Nippon TV and ITV Studios in the UK have created Stacking It! together, while TV Asahi has teamed up with Red Arrow Studios International on new gameshow Crazy Elevator.

 

Further international creative partnerships have been forged between Fuji TV and The Story Lab, for studio-based physical gameshow The Spin, while Nippon TV previously linked with The Story Lab for quizshow 9 Windows. Kansai TV and Red Arrow also partnered on Crazy Carousel, and NHK aligned with LineUp Industries to distribute Chiko’s Challenge and Late Night Show with Nitty & Gritty.

 

Old Jack & Rose
Old Jack & Rose

“The growing number of partnership agreements with international producers and distributors has helped Japanese broadcasters develop programmes that are both uniquely Japanese and relevant to international audiences,” Kimishima says.

 

In conclusion, Kimishima does a little trendspotting for 2022, highlighting a growing demand for food-related dramas. Netflix, for example, has coproduced Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman with TV Tokyo and acquired Solitary Gourmet from the same broadcaster, while also bagging Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories from Mainichi Broadcasting and ordering original Samurai Gourmet. Prime Video has also picked up Sunshine Sento-Sake from TV Tokyo. Another highlight in this sub-genre is Wonder Food ¬– From Fiction to Reality from Chukyo TV Broadcasting, which neatly combines live-action drama and reality TV.

 

“2022 will most definitely bring new opportunities for Japanese content and allow Japanese broadcasters to reap the benefits of their stepped-up efforts in exporting their shows,” she says. “Given the current trend, demand from streamers will likely continue to grow, fuelled by increased exposure and popularity of Japanese content.”



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