TIFFCOM sets stage for dealing in content

by Minoru Matsutani

Japanese animation and movie content have strong global pull and inspired several foreign spinoffs, but the bottom-line profits show there is room to expand.

This is the goal of the Japanese movie industry and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in hosting TIFFCOM 2008, an event this week where buyers and sellers of movies, TV dramas, “anime,” game characters and other entertainment-related content will meet and make deals.

There are some 4,000 content and character buyers from 42 countries and regions, mainly Asian, in Tokyo to try to copy such successes as the “Pokemon” and “Naruto” anime series, which appear on television worldwide, and the “Resident Evil” movies, starring Milla Jovovich as a genetically modified fighter, based on the computer game “Biohazard” developed by Capcom Co.

TIFFCOM, which combines the Tokyo International Film Festival with the content market, is being held at Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills from Wednesday to Friday. The event coincides with the film festival, which opened Saturday for an eight-day run.

TIFFCOM, launched in 2003, aims to capitalize on Japan’s fame in animation and to support the content business, calling it “a leading industry essential for Japan’s economy to grow.”

“TIFFCOM is different from similar events in Cannes, Berlin and Los Angeles because it is a multicontent market, while others dominantly focus on movies,” said Mika Morishita, a spokeswoman of the Japan Institute of Development and Promotion for Picture, one of the sponsors for the event.

The animation events in Cannes and Berlin coincide with the international film festivals there in May and February. The one in Los Angeles is in November.

In its 2007 report on the content business, METI praised anime and other content for gaining worldwide popularity but said there is room to expand.

The report says the “Pokemon” series is broadcast on TV in 68 countries and regions and shown in theaters in 46. The Japanese movie “Shall We Dance?” (1996) inspired a Hollywood remake starring Richard Gear and Jennifer Lopez in 2004. The horror movies “Ring” (1998) and “Juon” (2003) also were remade in Hollywood as “The Ring” (2002) and “The Grudge” (2004).

But the ministry wants the nation’s content industry to parlay its popularity into money. The report says Japan is the world’s second-largest market in entertainment-related content after the United States but accounts for just 2.2 percent of gross domestic product, compared with 5.1 percent in the U.S., revealing plenty of upside potential.

Also, overseas sales account for 17.8 percent of the business in the U.S., compared with just 1.9 percent in Japan, the report says.

The ministry hopes to up revenue from the content business to ¥18.7 trillion by 2015, compared with ¥13.6 trillion in 2005.

TIFFCOM 2008 will help by providing opportunities for companies from different countries to interact, Morishita said. The event has drawn 201 companies — including TV broadcasters, movie companies and video game makers — from 22 countries and regions to exhibit works and solicit buyers, Morishita said. Of them, half are Japanese, 38 percent are from Asia, 7 percent are European and 4 percent are North American.

The buyers are typically TV broadcasters and movie makers, but also include agents for companies that buy content for airlines.