ATF: Hulu Plans ‘One-Stop Shop’ for Japan

SINGAPORE — Hulu Japan is planning to expand its linear streaming service to include transactional video on demand (TVoD) and electronic sell-through. The service will also expand the number of channels available.

“The opportunity is huge. Ultimately, what we are trying to realize is a one-stop shop for consumers,” Hulu Japan chief content officer Kazufumi Nagasawa told Variety at the Asia Television Forum, part of the Singapore Media Festival.

Japan currently has an antediluvian system of windowing for features. Films often have their Japan release several months after the rest of the world, though studios are now trying to release more titles day and date. The DVD rental market is still big in Japan and the release happens around four to five months after the theatrical date. After that films go to premium pay channels and a year after release they become available to free to air networks. SVoD windows for U.S. studio films typically open up only four years after theatrical release for Japan, says Nagasawa.

“If we want to acquire an earlier window we need to pay a lot. But we can acquire local films much earlier – one year from DVD rental,” Nagasawa said. “That said, it’s changing, local studios are trying to sell SVoD rights much earlier to generate more revenue.”

It is a different story for U.S. drama series. They premiere in Japan two to three weeks after the U.S. air date, with that time used to localize the content.

Hulu also has several Japanese-language originals, with the most recent one being mini-series “Daisho.” “It is one of the top performers on our service,” says Nagasawa. For 2017, “We are developing several high profile scripted series,” Nagasawa says.

In conjunction with Nippon TV and Wowow, Hulu Japan is developing “Inspector Zenigata,” a live action spin-off of popular animation franchise “Lupin III,” due in 2017.

Based on third party market surveys, the heartening news for Hulu Japan is that Japanese consumers are aware of the brand, Nagasawa says. “The market is very crowded, but more importantly, the awareness of the name of Hulu is over 70%. But still, I’d say less than 10% know what it really is, what can be watched and how. So the real challenge is to educate consumers about the service. That will take a while,” he said.

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