Territory Reports: Japan

Terrestrials hit the ground running

TOKYO — Reflecting the growing popularity of U.S. shows in the world’s second-largest TV market, Japan will send a buyer contingent to the L.A. Screenings that includes a significant presence from terrestrial networks.

Historically, reps for pubcaster NHK and satellite and cable broadcasters such as Tohokushinsha, Jupiter and J:Com have acquired the bulk of foreign series programming for broadcast. Japanese viewers can now catch everything from standbys like “ER,” now in its 12th season on pubcaster NHK’s BS2 satellite service, to relatively newer fare such as “Alias,” the Touchstone series that TV Tokyo broadcasts three times weekly on its terrestrial strand.

However, suppliers of foreign shows to the terrestrial webs will also tote big shopping bags.

One such rep is Shoichiro Ishiwatari of the Dentsu ad shop, Japan’s largest, who says he plans to “see everything” on offer in L.A. while looking for a series the caliber of “Lost,” which has been one of Dentsu’s biggest recent U.S. series hits. Twenty-five affiliates of the Tokyo Broadcasting System, one of Japan’s Big Three webs, skedded the show, with broadcasts starting last December on the web’s BS-I satellite strand.

“Each affiliate makes its own decision as to when and how to program it,” Ishiwatari explains.

Although U.S. series are regulars on cable, satellite and DVD, the TBS deal, Ishiwatari notes, is “rare among terrestrial broadcasters” who are still largely wedded to domestic programming, especially for their primetime strands.

The AXN cable and satellite channel also offers the show, launching it in April. Dentsu, which sells only broadcast rights to “Lost” in Japan, coordinates its promotional efforts with Buena Vista, which distribs the program on DVD. Dentsu has also successfully repped “24,” “The X-Files” and “The OC” in the territory.

“U.S. shows are hotter now in Japan than they’ve been in a long while,” Ishiwatari says.

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