MUMBAI: With a population of 120 million, Japan is the second largest audiovisual market after the US, with steady global market growth of over 2% year-on-year. There is one public broadcaster (NHK), and five commercial broadcast networks, all fed by hundreds of production companies. The market was fully digitised in 2011.

Japan has a wide variety of distribution models for its content-consuming market, but terrestrial remains its strongest lever: Japan’s market is expected to grow through 2020 to the tune of 4.8 trillion yen (about US$46 billion), driven primarily by terrestrial broadcasting at 62%; 24% growth will come from cable.

A Mipblog report noted that Japan is the on-going television trade event Mipcom’s Country of Honour. So a market overview of the country was given. It was led by Mitsubishi Research Institute senior consultant Yosuke Ito.

“You can see Japan is mostly driven by terrestrial or advertising revenue. Terrestrial TV stations in Japan are vertically integrated: They engage in programme planning, scheduling and broadcasting,” Ito said.

Distribution variety and merchandise—like DVDs—are critical to growth.

Ito offered the example of Pokemon which has many revenue streams. “Pokémon has diffused its IP into various markets, after gaining attention and popularity through TV and gaming. Its revenue streams now include comics, animation, CDs, toys, and events—not to mention the technological innovation represented by Pokémon Go.”

Japanese content is also popular elsewhere in the world, with overseas revenue rising steadily—from growth of 6.6 billion yen in 2010, to 18.3 billion yen in 2014, mainly driven by programme rebroadcasting rights and internet diffusion rights. A current initiative, ‘Cool Japan’, is more aggressively promoting Japanese TV content in the global market noted the Mipblog report.

Ito also spoke about the importance of 8K. By the time the Tokyo Olympics happens, in 2020, Japan will be on 8K broadcast. “Over 50% of households will be installed with 8K compatible TVs by 2020,” Ito went on. “The market will gain the opportunity to produce content for both 4K and 8K, which can be fundamentally diffferentiated in terms of type. If you’re curious about what 8K is like, try it this week at the Japan Plaza. “You won’t want to go back to 2K or HD,” Ito promised.

Sony president, CEO Kazuo Hirai delivered a keynote address. He paid tribute to Japan’s spirit of imagination. “During my tenure at Sony—and my time in Japan—I’ve seen the musings of the imagination become movies, games and real products. I see great opportunities for what we can accomplish as an industry, as we explore the synergies of storytelling and technology.”

The Mipblog report noted that the fusion of storytelling and technology became the theme of his discourse. Hirai observed that Japan has powerful cultural capital throughout the world: Its art, food, fashion, technology and lifestyle set global trends. And it’s likely to stay that way, because while Japan maintains a strong sense of its own history, it doesn’t fear innovation—early adoption rates for new mobile technology are unsurpassed.

“With Playstation 4 and Playstation VR in the marketplace, Sony is the standard bearer for the state of the art. We continually ask ourselves, how can storytelling be further transformed by technological innovation?”

He also stressed the importance of Virtual Reality. “For decades, Japan has harnessed science, tech and engineering to enhance and enrich our lives through groundbreaking consumer technologies and unparalleled audiovisual experiences. Today it takes a giant leap forward with the introduction of virtual reality,” said Hirai.

The Playstation VR entered the marketplace four days ago, and promises “an entirely new gaming experience.” “We’ve also paid attention to early VR exposure by audiences and plan to respond with content beyond gaming.”

Various Sony content divisions are currently working on VR experiences, including Sony Pictures—with Ghostbusters Dimension—and Sony Music’s virtual reality experience for Kygo’s Carry Me.

“Sony is well positioned to set trends in virtual reality. First with PlayStation VR, we were able to provide an entirely new gaming experience. Also, we have paid close attention to audience reaction to early VR exposure, and intend to respond with a variety of content beyond gaming.” He referred to Sony Pictures’ development of VR “experiences” to tie in with its movies, like ‘Ghostbusters’, ‘The Walk’ and ‘Goosebumps’.

“My 32 years in this business tells me there is no limit to what is possible if you listen to consumers. It is my conviction that emotional involvement is at essence to what Sony brings to the marketplace.”

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