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Netflix to bring NHK drama series to global audience

A screenshot from the new NHK series to be made available on Netflix.

TOKYO -- Japanese public broadcaster NHK announced Wednesday that a historical series to be aired in December will be made available on Netflix, as part of its efforts to deliver programming overseas amid an intense debate regarding the future of online streaming.

The series, proposed by NHK and produced jointly with Dutch and Canadian production companies, depicts backdoor dealings behind the Tokyo tribunals after World War II. Netflix gained streaming rights through financing the Canadian company.

After the series is broadcast on TV, NHK will make it available online in Japan through its own platform. Netflix will start streaming the series around January, providing subtitles in 20 languages for the international audience. The U.S. company has streamed other NHK programming in Japan in the past.

The spread of smartphones and video streaming websites has dramatically altered the business environment for TV broadcasters. NHK is not permitted to stream programming online in real time under Japanese law. The arrangement for the upcoming series "should not legally be a problem" because domestic streaming will only start after NHK airs the program on TV, a company representative said.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications launched discussions last November on coordinating TV broadcasting and the internet. Recommendations made to NHK in September include using the internet as part of its operations and designing a subscription scheme that includes online streaming.

Private-sector players are wary of NHK's expanding operations. "We are concerned that NHK will grow even larger" through online streaming and other operations, said Hiroshi Inoue, president of the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association.


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