Japanese broadcasters launch online platform for viewing TV shows


Television broadcasters are seeking new revenue streams from online content in a nation increasingly glued to smartphones and not to the box. Young people in particular are spurning traditional TV.

Five major commercial networks headquartered in Tokyo have jointly launched a free service named TVer, which allows online viewing of TV programs for about a week after broadcast. Public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp., commonly known as NHK, has begun trials of simultaneous TV broadcasting and online distribution.

A Cabinet Office survey on consumer spending found that the proportion of heads-of-households aged up to 29 who own a TV set dropped to some 85 percent in March 2015 from about 91 percent two years earlier.

Commercial broadcasters in particular are hoping to make online advertisements a revenue source. A survey by ad agency Dentsu Inc. estimated the nation’s online ad market to be worth more than ¥1 trillion in 2014, while ads from terrestrial broadcasting have shown a slow recovery after falling below ¥2 trillion in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Netflix Inc. of the United States and Amazon Japan K.K., with its Prime Video service, jointed the growing Japanese market of video streaming services in 2015. The services enabling subscribers to watch their favorite programs anywhere, anytime are seen as drawing viewers from traditional TV.

In the TVer service launched last October, each broadcaster makes around 10 programs available for about a week after broadcast.

The system was an immediate hit. Within three weeks of its launch, users downloaded a custom viewing app over 1 million times.

“The service has been highly appreciated by our ad clients,” TV Asahi Corp. President Shinichi Yoshida said.

NHK has been studying the needs of viewers through the experimental simultaneous online distribution of TV programs. Still, commercial broadcasters are cautious about the possibility that the public broadcaster may grab the lion’s share of the audience.

“The use of the Internet by NHK should be complementary to their broadcasting,” Hiroshi Inoue, chairman of the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association, said.