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Fuji TV and Aeon to export shows for Asia's kids

Japanese media and retail pair eye $425bn content market

An Aeon shopping center in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The retailer will use its store network for its tie-up with Fuji TV. (Photo by Shohei Kono)

TOKYO -- Fuji Television Network and retailer Aeon are teaming up to create and broadcast TV programs for children in Southeast Asia and China, seeking to tap a $425 billion-plus market for content.

The Japanese companies plan to jointly manage intellectual property and develop their business, including selling related merchandise, into a new earnings source.

Fuji TV, part of Fuji Media Holdings, will combine its strength in producing TV programs with Aeon's vast network of shopping centers and general merchandise stores.

The partnership has potential to become a new business model. Through its "Cool Japan" strategy, the Japanese government has been promoting cultural exports, including those of content like anime, but has struggled to gain traction.

The collaboration will begin in Japan and expand into other parts of Asia. Starting this Saturday in Japan, Fuji TV will air on television and via the internet a children's variety program based on a hit show in the 1990s.

Similar shows will be broadcast overseas from 2019, starting with Cambodia. Fuji TV will create content for youngsters by partnering with Cambodian television station Hang Meas HDTV, which has a studio in an Aeon shopping center in Phnom Penh.

Broadcasts will later begin in Indonesia, Vietnam and China. Fuji TV will partner with local television studios, while Aeon will advertise the shows at its retail outlets.

The pair will capitalize on content by collecting a portion of television stations' advertising revenue as fees. They will also sell related merchandise like toys and clothing and hold events at Aeon outlets. The retailer has roughly 1,800 stores throughout Southeast Asia and China.

The content market in a region centering on China and Southeast Asia is expected to total $426.8 billion this year, according to a survey from PricewaterhouseCoopers. The market is expected to expand about 30% to $549.1 billion in 2022.

Potential demand for children's content is especially high in Southeast Asia, where the average age is low as its population grows. Intellectual property could develop into a major source of earnings should the companies produce hit shows.

Japanese content, especially anime like "One Piece" and "Dragonball," is highly popular overseas.

The Japanese government anticipates greater overseas demand for content. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications aims to export 50 billion yen ($442 million) worth of shows produced by Japanese television studios in fiscal 2020, a 70% increase from fiscal 2015.

Yet significant challenges remain. The Cool Japan Fund's signature projects have struggled, and its investments have fallen flat. Former Sony Music Entertainment (Japan) CEO Naoki Kitagawa has begun to revamp the fund's strategy since taking over as president in June.

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