Japan’s PoweredCom announced the start of a Video on Demand (VOD) distribution service over high capacity fiber optics broadband networks. Powered Theater will soft launch August 11. Full service should begin in mid-September. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is a partner in PoweredCom and very interested in seeing more traffic on their fiber optic networks. For this project, the company tied up with cell phone content provider Index Corps’ subsidiary Neo Index and Mitsubishi as a technology/programming partner.
In a separate development Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) and Culture Convenience Club, parent company of video rental giant Tsutaya, have put together a joint venture to distribute programming over Internet broadband networks, original DVDs and through mobile phones. Though few details are available the new company should start at the end of October. TBS owns a controlling interest of 51 percent and CCC 49 percent. TBS also recently partnered with ColorZip Japan for a late-summer launch of TV applications using ColorZip’s server based ColorCode code recognition system linking TV broadcasts to related digital content for sponsored websites, music samples, contests and prize drawings.
Powered Theater will offer movies, anime and Karaoke over a high speed FTTH (Fiber To The Home) broadband network. Initial registration will be 3500 yen followed by a monthly charge of 2000 yen for set-top box rental. Pay-per-view downloads run 100-400 yen. At press time the company planned on providing 100 movie titles a month.
Unwisely, as least from a revenue standpoint, the service will be available only to the limited number of subscribers on PoweredCom’s Dream Train Internet service or Tepco’s own fiber optic network. A broader roll out would make more sense but Tepco seems anxious to maintain control and promote its own services.
Though the Powered Theater system has not yet announced a wireless connection, the involvement of a mobile-centric company like Index indicates services will move in that direction. Both PoweredCom’s and TBS tie-ups reflect Japan’s changing broadcast industry hustling to adjust to new technology. Digital terrestrial broadcasting is scheduled to get up and go in spring of next year and broadcasters are readying interactive programming to engage viewers through mobile handsets.
Not that mobile phones and TV are strangers in this country. The two industries have been dating for years. Japanese can browse or subscribe to any number of official TV information websites on their mobiles, check broadcast schedules for the day or week, visit fan and music sites, and download favorite TV theme songs as ringtones. Many services are free, some content is subscription based. Theme songs, for example, cost around 315 yen a download. Wireless has already created a promising revenue stream for TV broadcasters. A recent Nihon Business daily report said downloads for program guides, ring tones and other mobile services netted Fuji Television around 3 billion yen last fiscal year.
– Gail Nakada