About NHK On Demand Japanese Video Service

November 29, 2009

As you know if you live in Japan, NHK demands payment for its services. In fact, they say that “if you own a tv” you are required to pay. Many non-Japanese people living in Japan think that pretending not to understand Japanese will save you, but they will come back with a vengence, or an English language pamphlet, or an English speaking rep. Many people Japanese and non-Japanese alike decide to just pretend not to be home.

They don’t seem to realize, however, that despite how wonderful NHK kids shows are, people paying mandatory fees to watch them (or not) on tv, are not going to pay even more on top of that to watch them on the computer.

The NHK On Demand service will be a year old this December. Some free programs also exist, but the majority of programs cost between 105 yen and 315 yen.

NHK On Demand was 1,300,000,000 yen in the red last year and is projected to surpass that this year. The service is obviously failing financially. I think they could really help themselves out by finding a way to market Japanese people living abroad. I would happily pay to be able to access NHK kids shows from abroad. I’m sure students of Japanese in high schools and college would also love to be able to watch NHK shows on demand to perfect their comprehension skills.

I think NHK can be a big success if they team it up with services like KeyholeTV, or compete with Keyhole TV. Japan currently has no service like Hulu or tv online so maybe this is NHK’s chance to take all that they’ve invested in their On Demand service and make it profitable. They have the technology in place. Now it’s just a matter of offering content people want with a viable plan for monetizing it.

I’d pay, or happily watch commercials if it meant access to kids shows from outside of Japan. The service needs some better marketing and a more aggressive plan for getting people outside of Japan in on the action.

For now, I’ll be content to enjoy some of the free content offered and keep an eye on the development of this promising yet underdeveloped service.