Could Netflix Help Bring Up the Level of Japanese TV?

netflix-in-japan

Japan, prepare to binge watch.

While the craze of marathon TV and movie viewing has increasingly become the dominant means of consuming entertainment in most Western countries, courtesy of streaming giant Netflix, Japan has been one of the last—and biggest—holdouts from the world’s leading streaming service. (Even though the less popular, and far less content rich, western service Hulu has been in Japan since 2011, while domestic network Nippon TV and domestic telecom providers KDDI, NTT Docomo and SoftBank also offer streaming services). But this fall Netflix will eagerly expand into the Asian nation of approximately 36 million broadband households (ranking only behind the totals in America and China). The entrance of the world’s biggest streamer is sure to shake up the Japanese market.

Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, released a statement about his excitement to make Japan its first foray into Asia, in which he said, “With its rich culture and celebrated creative traditions, Japan is a critical component of our plan to connect people around the world to stories they love… As we expand into Asia, we’re excited Netflix members increasingly will have access to some of their favorite movies and TV shows no matter where they are.”

But Forbes has its own theories about why Netflix chose Japan for its Asian debut. The business magazine notes that Japanese viewers are poised to partake in Netflix streaming and content, thanks to the nation’s advanced internet standards, noting that “87% of Japan’s internet connections have connection speeds of 4 Mbps or above, the minimum speed recommended for streaming high definition content.” On top of that, Japan is also a prime destination for Netflix’s mobile push, thanks to the country’s highest-in-Asia mobile network connection speeds of 6.7 Mbps.

According to the Japan Times and the Nikkei newspaper, Netflix will not only offer streaming of American hit shows and box office smashes, but also provide and create original Japanese content. That increased local programming will include the new season of the ongoing popular reality TV series “Terrace House” and a brand new drama titled “Atelier,” both of which will debut exclusively on Netflix, before later becoming available on TV. The streaming service has also partnered with Yoshimoto Kogyo, a local talent agency, to create original Japanese programs that will be streamed on Netflix. Apparently the first series is set to star esteemed Japanese TV celebrity Sanma Akashiya.

In the U.S. Netflix has been praised for streaming critically acclaimed original series like “Orange is the New Black” and “House of Cards.” Japanese TV fiends will no doubt eagerly anticipate what the platform can create in its first Asian collaborations, especially considering criticism that Japanese television has received in recent years, with a viral Reddit user writing the nation has three varieties of series: “Shows about celebrities. Shows about food. Shows about celebrities eating food,” while other detractors lambast Japanese TV dramas for being “bland” “predicable,” and wrought with “overacting.” Here’s hoping that the digital age will usher in a “Golden Age of Television” in Japan.

—Kyle Mullin

Image: Lars Plougmann/Flickr, used under CC

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