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Volume 10 No. 24
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Higher World Cup Rights Fees, Fewer Viewers Leave Japanese Broadcasters In Red

Japan's broadcasters failed to make the World Cup pay off following a 60% jump in rights fees, uneven ratings and an underperforming national team. The TV rights for the World Cup are negotiated by the Japan Consortium, consisting of public broadcaster NHK and the five major commercial networks: NTV, Fuji TV, TV Asahi, TBS and TV Tokyo. JC, which also buys Olympic broadcast rights, was joined by Sky Perfect JSAT for the last two World Cups, but the satellite network pulled out this year, citing previous losses and the 40B yen ($395M) cost for Brazil 2014. The rights fees were up from the 24B yen ($237M) for the 2010 South Africa tournament, when the commercial networks were all reported to have lost money despite Japan making it through to the knockout stage.

MEETING VIEWERS' NEEDS: Advertising agency Dentsu, which dominates the domestic advertising market and wields enormous power over the media, handles the Japanese rights for FIFA. TV Tokyo CEO Yuichi Takahashi told reporters, "This tournament will be a loss-maker for us. But we have to develop the broadcasting of soccer and meet the needs of viewers." Although other networks haven't commented publicly, all are understood to have lost money. "We knew we would end up in the red before the World Cup started. That was before Japan produced bad results and the ratings dropped. The rights are just too expensive now, but what can we do? We are in the Japan Consortium and it would be very difficult to pull out, but it can't continue like this," a producer from the sports department of a commercial network told SBD Global on condition of anonymity. A manager at another commercial network said, "It was a combination of Japan losing and the time difference that caused the low ratings; everyone will have lost money this time."

DOOMED BY POOR PLAY: Japan's opening game, a defeat against the Ivory Coast at a relatively viewer-friendly 10am on a Sunday, was watched on NHK in 46.6% of households, despite a big increase in viewing at public screenings, bars and restaurants. However, ratings dropped to 37.4% for Japan's final group game against Colombia, with the national team's early exit all but decided beforehand. With other popular teams such as England, Italy, Spain and Portugal also out early, interest in the tournament appeared to drop sharply. Colombia vs. Uruguay, the first game of the knockout stages, was watched in only 1.7% of households, while daily highlights shows of the latter stages registered between 2-7%. Given the 4am kickoff, the final logged respectable 26.7% figures, up from 15.4% in '10. However, this brought no consolation to the commercial networks, as like Japan's opener, it was shown by NHK.
Gavin Blair is a writer in Tokyo.