Cell-Phone Soap Opera a Cool New Genre
Cell-Phone Soap Opera a Cool New Genre

Cell-Phone Soap Opera a Cool New Genre

Cell-Phone Soap Opera a Cool New Genre

Love comes to the really, really small screen in a mobile, only-in-Japan, soap opera made exclusively for KDDI 3G cellys. The live-action soap opera, Yokohama 80s, follows the predictable lives, loves, and losses of young, beach-loving Japanese boys and girls back when Madonna was still Like a Virgin. Eighties’ big hair, big shoulders, and big hits have been downsized to tiny, two-and-a-half-minute broadcast bites. The story is adapted from Shogakan Shukan’s weekly Big Comic Spirits-series “Tokyo Eighties” (published as a serial manga) but features all-new original characters and storylines by the same author. Can the mobile laundry soap commercials be far behind?

Cast of SkyPerfect TV's Yokohama EightiesKDDI kicked off the drama on 7 October and is airing (webbing? netting? mobiling?) new episodes every Monday and Thursday. The program is part of KDDI’s “EZ Channel” SMIL-format-based multimedia content service running on the CDMA 2000 1X EV-DO network under flat-rate pricing. The series is produced by Japan’s Sky Perfect Communications (SKY Perfect TV); subscription cost is Y315/month and the series is scheduled to run through 51 episodes by March, 2005.

Big interest in mobile movie entertainment is popping up all over the world.

Small screen programming in the US formed the basis of the BigDigit World’s Smallest Film Festival event at the 2003 CTIA exhibition in New Orleans where entries ran up to seven minutes.

Currently, Europe is gearing up for the Cellular Film Festival; awards commence on 15 December with late entries accepted right up until 15 November. One entry category is “Cellular Soaps.” Analysts who pooh pooh this form of mobile entertainment point to the lack of 3G phone penetration. That argument may hold up in New York or Berlin, but Asia is embracing 3G with typical techno enthusiasm.

A Korean and Japanese initiative to bring satellite TV broadcasting to gizmos has been in ‘go’ status since successful launch of the Mobile Broadcasting Corp. (MoBaHo) satellite last spring. Korea’s Samsung made the first move, releasing a cell-phone satellite TV receiver in mid-summer. Japan launches its own barrage of receivers this winter with handhelds from Toshiba and Sharp; several car-mounted models and a PC card unit all connect to a small (for now) package of TV channels, music, and data broadcasts.

Though Japanese manufactures have yet to announce a handset receiver or kick-off date for mobile broadcasts, KDDI is a partner in the satellite broadcasting venture… Nudge, nudge. Think of the “Yokohama Eighties” SKY Perfect/KDDI soap as market research for this new broadcasting genre.

Note that Yokohama 80s is not streamed “live;” KDDI’s EZ Channel downloads the program between the middle of the night and early morning for subscriber access during the day. The program is supported by an Internet website, http://www.eighties.jp/eighties/ full of eighties news, music, memorabilia, personality interviews and ・soon ・online shopping.

On the mobile net, viewers can subscribe to a sister site (210 yen) for 80s music videos, movie clips, and music. Will this mini-mobile drama genre be da bomb or a bomb? Dial in and find out.

— Gail Nakada