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Amazon’s Original Content Strategy for Japan Achieves Liftoff

First formally unveiled last May, Amazon’s ambitious original content plans for Japan are part of a winning strategy, says James Farrell, Amazon’s head of content for the Asia Pacific region.

“Original content is a huge part of the Prime Video service,” says Farrell. “What drives us is a passion and desire to bring compelling, stand-out programming to customers — TV shows and movies that can’t be found anywhere else, that have a unique voice and interesting characters that audiences haven’t met before.”

“We’ve had success with all types of content, from anime to variety, and from TV series to movies,” Farrell says. The company will also have buyers active at the Tokyo Film Festival and its allied TIFFCOM market.

Since entering the Japanese market for streaming content in September last year, Amazon has taken care to cover all genre bases, local contents included. “One of the most exciting things we’ve learned is how broad our audience is in terms of what content they are most interested in watching,” says Farrell. “The four best performing Japanese Amazon original series are all completely different.”

They include: the 12-part drama series “Happy Marriage,” which launched on June 22; the sci-fi comedy series “Businessmen vs. Aliens,” scripted and directed by Yuichi Fukuda of the Bravo theater troupe which started in September; and spin-offs from the popular “Kamen Rider” action-adventure and “Crayon Shin-chan” comedy series for kids.

Although mobile devices are a prime growth area for these and other content, Farrell reports that Amazon “has also seen a good uptick from gaming consoles, connected TVs and especially Amazon’s own Amazon Fire TV family of devices, all which make watching Prime Video super easy.”

The claim is interesting given how slow Japanese consumers have been to adopt digital delivery of movies. Companies including Tsutaya now offer movies online, but still see video shops and home deliveries of DVD as their dominant business.

Spurred by enthusiastic user response to its made-for-Japan shows (“Customers come away saying, ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before… and how long until the next episode?’ says Farrell,) Amazon is keeping the pipeline filled.

The family drama “Fukuyado Honnpo, Kyoto Love Story” bowed on Oct. 19, while the new variety show “Documental” starring megastar comedian Hitoshi Matsumoto is set to start before the end of the year, together with a spinoff of the enduringly popular “Ultraman” sci-fi series.

Also, coming up next year is the reality show “The Bachelor Japan,” which Amazon is presenting in partnership with Warner Bros.

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