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Sony starts ‘anime’ channel in Japan

Set to launch in partnership with four Nippon firms

Sony Pictures Entertainment will launch a 24-hour, satellite-delivered animation channel in Japan called Animax. The channel will be launched in partnership with four leading Japanese animation firms: Toei, Sunrise, Kyokuichi and Nippon. Sony already operates an action-adventure channel in Asia called AXN.

Animax will air on the Sky PerfecTV platform, a new digital platform created through the merger of PerfecTV and JSkyB. The platform offers 171 channels and hopes to attract 2 million subscribers by the year 2000.

Uplinked from Tokyo on the JSAT 4 satellite, Animax will be the first channel branded and dedicated to the “anime” genre, a unique Japanese style of animation gaining worldwide popularity.

With service beginning June 1, the channel’s programming lineup will feature Japanese and international animation with product acquired from Japan’s top animation companies. SPE will also provide programs from its growing animated product lineup.

Animax will deliver classic family, robotic, superhero, romantic comedy and sitcom anime as well as behind-the-scenes interstitials and entertainment and educational shorts. The programming will consist of local Japanese-language productions and dubbed or subtitled international product.

“Animax demonstrates one of Sony’s strengths — to actively develop local programming and channel concepts with a global perspective in mind,” said Michael Grindon, president of Columbia TriStar Intl. Television.

Masao Takiyama has been named general manager and chief operating officer of the channel and will be based in Animax’s Tokyo headquarters. Previously, he held executive posts at Fuji Creative, where he is credited with pioneering the global marketing of Japanese animation.