Live Streaming of Terrestrial TV Programs in Japan (or Lack Thereof): Public Welfare through Weak Competition?
24 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2017 Last revised: 25 Aug 2017
Date Written: March 31, 2017
This paper discusses the online distribution of terrestrial TV programs in Japan, with some comparative perspective to the situation in the U.S. Japan is known to have one of the most affordable broadband infrastructure among the OECD countries. The rate of FTTH deployment is quite high. TV viewing is reasonably popular as well: people on average watch TV for 3.5hours per day during week days, and 4 hours on Sundays (Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, undated). Looking only this aspect, Japan should be a very good environment in which terrestrial TV programs are delivered online and attract many viewers with various devices. Quite curiously, such practice is not common at all. Roughly speaking, the reasons behind the lack of the live streaming has less to do with the demand side, but more with the supply side, it seems.
The government recently convened a couple of panels of experts partly to discuss this very issue. This paper explores forces behind this market situation and policy discussion, and provides a review of economic, cultural, and business reasons behind the lack of the live streaming in Japan through the review of existing literature and historical background, as well as interviews with people in the relevant industries. It turns out that the people in the broadcasting stations are not ready to engage in live streaming, yet they believe that they have to do it as a matter of course, especially when 5G network is deployed. What drives the change, simply put, may be the fatalistic view of their future in the changing social and user environment, as opposed to the business reasoning or organizational cultures.
Reviewing all the plausible explanations and their historical background, an overarching theme is the weak market competition for the sake of certain public welfare such as high budget programs and advanced TV services.
The paper is organized as follows: the section 2 reviews the current market in TV program distribution in Japan. Section 3 offers a review of policy discussions surrounding the live streaming. The third section reports the interviews over this issue with broadcasting and Internet industry experts. The fourth section discusses the large structure behind many factors and reasons for the absence of the live streaming in Japan. It also identifies a potential game-changing market development. The last concluding section offers a summary and identifies directions for future research.
Keywords: Broadcast TV Stations, Virtual MVPD (Multichannel Video Programming Distributors), Media Convergence, Broadband Internet
JEL Classification: K23, L82, M21, O33, P51
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation