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Japanese Planning Major Selling Spree

For U.S. and European broadcasters eager to sell their programs at the upcoming Mip Asia market, Japanese broadcasters have one piece of advice: Watch out for the competition.

Japan is one of the few Asian countries that will travel to Hong Kong primarily to sell, rather than buy, programs.

“Our main objective (at Mip Asia) is to sell our programming to Asian countries, particularly our dramas and variety shows, ” says Ansei Yokota, director of the business affairs division in the international department of major broadcaster Fuji TV.

The same goes for public broadcaster NHK.

“We may buy some programming, but we see Mip Asia as a forum for selling our own programming, ” says Maki Aso, coordinator for NHK’s Media Development Department.

Mip Asia organizers acknowledge there will be less participation by Western broadcasters in Mip Asia’s second forum, whereas Japanese participants account for one of the largest groups at the meet.

Aso says Japan’s success at last year’s market was due to the fact that “our programs are made with Asian feelings. Asian people can relate to our programs much more so than they can to those produced in Western countries.”

Fuji TV says its dramas are a hot item in Asia, with demand “far exceeding what we can actually supply.”

“Our trendy dramas, which depict young fashionable people living in big cities, are the most popular among Asian countries, ” says Yokota. “The Asian youngsters love to see the fashions and the glamorous lives of other Asian people, but the Japanese lifestyle is perhaps too free for some of the countries, and that can sometimes be a problem.”

He says demand for Fuji TV dramas “is most fierce in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Star TV would buy all the dramas we have, but we can’t meet their demand.”

Japan faces a serious glut of programming, with rights to Japanese productions a huge obstacle to selling programs overseas. Laws governing who owns rights are “still in a gray area for most of our programs, ” says Yokota.

NHK will showcase documentaries and educational programs already shown on Japanese TV, including one about a Sarajevo teenage boy’s journey back to his war-torn country and a look at nuclear proliferation in the 50 years since Japan was hit by American atom bombs.

Broadcasters in Japan are in a frenzy to boost their strength in programming ahead of the expected onslaught of foreign programming. A host of new commercial satellite and cable operators, such as a $400 million project that includes Time Warner, are expected to blow Japan’s TV market wide open.

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