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Japan-Update

SMAP brings ratings bonanza to streaming service

Despite ugly breakup, former members draw 74M views for Japan's AbemaTV

From left to right, Shingo Katori, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Katsuyuki Mori and Goro Inagaki catch up during a 72-hour live program on AbemaTV. (Photo courtesy of AbemaTV)   © AbemaTV

TOKYO -- AbemaTV, a Japanese internet television station, drew a whopping 74 million views, a company record, with a 72-hour live program featuring former members of Japanese boy band SMAP.

AbemaTV is a joint venture between internet service provider CyberAgent and TV Asahi.

The program began airing on Nov. 2. During the 72 hours, three former members of SMAP -- Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori -- hosted 132 groups of guests for talks and other activities. There was even a reunion with Katsuyuki Mori, now 43, who left the group in 1996.

The entire program aired live. Its success shows not only that SMAP can still draw huge audiences despite its ugly breakup -- but that a small streaming service can get a national-level viewership with the right entertainers.

In a "wife hunt," Inagaki took up the challenge of picking up a woman on the street, then held a mock wedding ceremony.

As the program moved on with new activities, social media and online news sites erupted with much excitement.

CyberAgent CEO Susumu Fujita said he contacted the three former members immediately after the group was dissolved at the end of 2016. To prepare for the show, he quintupled AbemaTV's streaming capacity.

AbemaTV plans to launch special programs on a regular basis in the hope of boosting viewership and download numbers.

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