Fuji TV is dialing up its OTT distribution at home and abroad, as well as its slate of international co-productions, as the Japanese broadcaster seeks to diversify and expand its viewing base, using broadband networks to expose its programming to new audiences while gauging tastes and preferences.
“We feel it’s a golden age of story-making,” says Taka Hayakawa, director, worldwide production and sales in Fuji TV’s international department.
“We can make a good story, get new audiences and new feedback but we have to change our production system.”
The philosophy echoes the approach adopted by SVOD giant Netflix, which is working with Fuji on two original productions – a reality show and a drama series – which will make their global debut on Netflix, once the OTT service launches in Japan later this year.
After that, Fuji will air the shows on its own digital and broadcast platforms.
Last year, Fuji also co-produced a 15-episode drama called Mysterious Summer with Chinese streaming platform iQiyi.
The broadcaster later distributed the series, directed by a Japanese director in China with a Chinese cast, across North and South America via a distribution deal with Softbank-owned video site DramaFever.
In total, Fuji co-produced three dramas with international partners last year, in addition to three format co-development projects with Fremantle Media in the UK, Gurin in the US and Newen in France.
Hayakawa is aiming for double that output in 2015, seeing local collaboration as key to finding out what local audiences want.
In Asia, he is looking at two broad regions with different tastes: Southeast Asia, having worked with production companies in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as a cluster of three East Asian markets, China, Korea and Taiwan.
“We don’t focus on monetization at this stage,” he says. “Before that, we try to expose content to the new market, try to communicate and discuss with users on what kind of content and stories they are looking for. We are focusing on the feedback.”
Nonetheless distribution revenues are rising as Fuji focuses on broader distribution around the world.
The broadcaster has cleared the rights for almost 100 shows for OTT platforms, an especially cumbersome process in Japan requiring approval from multiple stakeholders.
International OTT distribution has mushroomed as a result from just one market – Taiwan – in 2013 to 167 today, inking deals with digital-only platforms such as Crunchyroll and DramaFever, as well as online deals with pay-TV platforms such as StarHub in Singapore.
It’s only the beginning of a long-term process, Hayakawa says, which will result in Fuji making shows that resonate outside as well as inside Japan.
“We’ve got to change our strategy,” he tells Media Business Asia. “Not only the domestic market, but also for the international market, and the internet market as well. We have just started this OTT challenge, not only selling the final product but also doing co-productions.”