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Japanese broadcaster NHK tutors Tencent on production techniques

Public TV giant licenses program 'formats' to boost presence in global markets

A baseball batter takes a swing during an episode of NHK's long-running series, “Document 72 Hours.”

TOKYO -- Japan's public broadcasting agency NHK is schooling China's Tencent Holdings on how to create Japanese-style TV shows, a move aimed at promoting its own shows in the Chinese market while licensing rights to program concepts and formats.

As part of its global expansion, NHK wants to tap into Tencent's vast pool of 63 million video subscribers to attract more young viewers. Tencent, for its part, plans to produce and stream content tailored to domestic tastes but modeled after Japanese programs.

Affiliate NHK Enterprises has already begun licensing the rights to program formats, which allows licensees to create localized TV shows based on concepts and plotlines created by NHK. 

The licensing deal with NHK is Tencent's first with a Japanese broadcaster. The initial project involves production of a Chinese version of "Document 72 Hours," a long-running Japanese series that explores people's lives in a certain locale over three days.

Tencent has created 13 episodes -- each running 25 minutes -- with the help of on-location NHK staff, and was expected to begin streaming them last month.

NHK wants to distribute more content outside Japan, a goal made easier if licensing concepts and formats of its own programs leads to higher brand recognition.

By offering production know-how, NHK intends to improve the quality of local remakes and distinguish them from imitations, which the broadcaster says are common in other countries, as copying program concepts is not illegal.

Japan's commercial broadcasters are also keen to license rights to program formats. "Sasuke" (Ninja Warrior), a sports entertainment show aired by Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, and Fuji Television Network's cooking show "Ryori no Tetsujin" (Iron Chef) are hits outside Japan.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications wants to boost exports of Japanese TV programs to 50 billion yen ($460 million) by fiscal 2020, a 60% increase from 2015.

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