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Japan's key TV networks to band together on online streaming

Joint venture will develop system for air-online simultaneous broadcasting

Fuji Television Network, whose headquarters is shown here, and its four major rivals will join hands to develop a better online content distribution system.

TOKYO -- All five major commercial television networks in Japan have agreed to jointly develop a system that will serve as the bedrock for simultaneous broadcasting of TV programs over the air and the Internet.

Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, TV Asahi, TV Tokyo and Fuji Television Network have reached a basic agreement to invest in a joint venture established by Nippon Television Network and internet service provider Internet Initiative Japan. Once the deal is finalized, the joint venture, JOCDN, will be 20% owned by IIJ. The remaining 80% stake will be equally divided among the five key networks, represented by their hub TV broadcasters.

JOCDN, a content delivery network company, is developing a proprietary system that will make it possible to stream TV broadcasts over the internet in real time in a high image quality comparable to that offered by Japan's free-to-air digital TV services.

As a start, the partners are looking to use JOCDN's system to stream content offered by the Japanese version of the Hulu online video-on-demand service, as well as by TVer, a portal site that offers viewing of programs already aired by key commercial TV networks. Further into the future, JOCDN aims to offer streaming in the ultra-high-quality 4K video standard.

The Nomura Research Institute forecasts that the Japanese online video streaming market will grow to be worth 220 billion yen ($1.97 billion) in fiscal 2022 from an estimated 170 billion yen in fiscal 2016, which ended Friday. Well aware of the opportunities, commercial TV broadcasters are exploring various options to turn this growing market into a new revenue source.

The joint effort among the five key commercial TV networks may also play a big role in realizing integrated coverage of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo through the air and the internet.

Japan's five key broadcasting networks are each owned by a holding company whose stock is traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. They are Nippon Television Holdings, Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings, TV Asahi Holdings, TV Tokyo Holdings, and Fuji Media Holdings.

(Nikkei)

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