Broadcasters export shows to Asia with Japanese ads attached

March 13, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Hoping to generate a mutually beneficial relationship between TV dramas and commercial products, Japanese broadcasters have stepped up efforts to secure Japanese sponsors for their programs across Asia.

Vietnam's state-run Vietnam Television (VTV) has been airing TV dramas produced by Tokyo Broadcasting System Television (TBS) Inc. during a one-hour time slot on weekday evenings since last fall. The high school drama "Boys Over Flowers" and "Bloody Monday," a psychological thriller about a brilliant hacker, and other programs have received favorable ratings.

Thanks to the positive reception, even amid strong competition from popular South Korean dramas, VTV has decided to continue airing Japanese shows from April.

Almost half of the 12 minutes allocated to TV commercials to air during breaks have been given to nine Japanese companies that operate in the country.

Major mayonnaise manufacturer Kewpie Corp. decided to air its TV ad in Vietnam at the invitation of TBS.

Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co. also started airing its commercials when the company launched its signature product and sports drink Pocari Sweat in the country in 2012.

Rohto Pharmaceutical Co., which has popularized the use of eye drops in Vietnam and now has the largest market share for the drug there, and the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co., the first Japanese life insurer to operate in Vietnam, are among the other companies that decided to sponsor the Japanese drama timeslot.

There is a great demand from Japanese companies for TV advertisements, according to Shuntaro Tanaka, chief operating officer of advertising firm Dentsu Media Vietnam Co.

"To sell the safety and promote the health consciousness of Japanese products, I think there would be a synergistic effect when you bundle TV commercials with dramas that reflect Japanese lifestyles," he said.

Initially, the VTV side had reservations about whether they could achieve high ratings with Japanese dramas that were previously unknown within the country.

"With sponsors attached (to the shows) serving as a reassurance, we got a good time slot," said Shintaro Hayashi, head of TBS' Global Business Department.

In Myanmar, Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) collected TV commercials from Japanese companies through its affiliates and is set to air its morning drama show "Carnation" and historical drama series "Atsuhime." The public broadcaster's shows will be aired during prime time from this spring.

Since the Southeast Asian country began democratic reforms in 2011, the number of households with TV sets has risen. As a result, Japanese companies are more keenly interested in the country than expected, according to Hiroshi Yamamoto, deputy chief of NHK's Group Planning and Management Department.

The export value of Japanese TV programs continues to remain around 6 billion yen ($58.9 million) and 8 billion yen annually. Exports of South Korean TV shows overtook Japanese exports in 2005, thanks to the so-called "Korean boom" that has taken Asian countries by storm, and Japan still trails South Korea by a wide margin.

There are also moves in Singapore and Indonesia to set up TV channels that focus exclusively on Japanese shows. But whether such channels can make a difference remains doubtful.

"(TV shows) can only be recognized when they are broadcast on channels watched by local people on a daily basis. The South Korean drama 'Winter Sonata' became so popular in Japan because it was aired by NHK," a sales representative of a Tokyo-based broadcaster said.

In addition to TV programs, format sales are considered promising as an export strategy. Local editions of TBS' "Sasuke," Fuji Television Network Inc.'s "Ryori no Tetsujin" and other shows have been popular in other countries and regions, with the former known as "Ninja Warrior" and the latter as "Iron Chef." The Thai edition of NHK's "The New Anatomy Show" also hit the airwaves as the "Kaitai-Shin Show" in January.

The Japanese government also puts emphasis on exporting TV programs, films and other content, knowing that it can cause significant ripple effects to other industries. In the fiscal 2012 supplementary budget, about 17 billion yen was earmarked to support such efforts.

(This story was written by Misuzu Sato and Emi Tadama.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Titled "Anshin no Kizuna wo Sekai no Kuniguni-he" (Bringing the bond of reassurance to countries and regions around the world), the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co.'s TV commercial is aired during breaks of a Japanese drama series on Vietnam's state-run Vietnam Television. (Provided by The Dai-ichi Life Insurance)

Titled "Anshin no Kizuna wo Sekai no Kuniguni-he" (Bringing the bond of reassurance to countries and regions around the world), the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co.'s TV commercial is aired during breaks of a Japanese drama series on Vietnam's state-run Vietnam Television. (Provided by The Dai-ichi Life Insurance)

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  • Titled "Anshin no Kizuna wo Sekai no Kuniguni-he" (Bringing the bond of reassurance to countries and regions around the world), the Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co.'s TV commercial is aired during breaks of a Japanese drama series on Vietnam's state-run Vietnam Television. (Provided by The Dai-ichi Life Insurance)

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