Japan


Reporting on the size of the digital content industry in Japan, an AP news feed on AOL news indicates that the digital content market size in Japan has grew to 2.694 trillion yen in 2007, just under 3.4 per cent growth.

The figures come as the Digital Content Association of Japan released their Digital Content White Paper 2008, which will interest readers of Japanese, on 1 September.

According to the association’s Press Release (PDF file in Japanese), 2007 saw visual content emerge with a clear margin as the largest contributor to digital content sales, reaching 30 per cent of total sale (540.8 billion yen, an increase of 8.7 per cent). Music was down to 26 per cent of the total, showing a negligible decrease in sales to 596.5 billion yen (12.5 billion yen down from the previons year). Game software also experienced a small decrease to total 767.7 billion yen, while digital publishing sales increased by over 10 per cent to reach 789.7 billion yen.

While most digital content was still predominantly sold as packaged media (66 per cent of total), consumption through mobile phones increased to reach 21.6 per cent of the total, ahead of online sales 11.6 per cent.

Meanwhile, the whole (media) content market size stood at 13.8 trillion yen, an ever so slight increase on 2006 of 0.3 per cent. 5.8 trillion of this was in publishing, 4.84 trillion in visual content, 1.86 trillion in music and 1.29 trillion in games. With regards to distribution medium, 48.6 per cent were packaged goods, 29.2 per cent via broadcasting, 12.8  per cent through location-based distribution (cinemas, game arcades, concerts), 5 per cent online, and 4.3 per cent via mobile.

Not surprisingly, packaged media has been steadily decreasing over the past 5 years as online and mobile sales continue to grow.

The Japan International Contents Festival gets underway at the end of this month running from 30 September through 28 October.

While more than 10 days shorter than last year’s ‘festa’, CoFesta 2008 still brings together individual markets and festivals across games, animation, characters, broadcast, film, and music content.

Check out the English version of CoFesta’s website.

With a touch of nostalgia I read the Wireless Watch Japan entry on mobile internet in Japan. The WWJ piece was critiquing an article in TechCrunch by on the success of mobile internet in Japan, particularly NTT Docomo’s i-mode.

The WWJ editors (rightly) point out that the success of mobile internet in Japan was mostly down to technological and business model innovation rather than cultural specificity in the Japanese market.

The WWJ editors are very dismissive of the Japan-specific story, and understandably so. This line has been carried by most analysts in the West and was long used as a reason why i-mode would never work outside of Japan. Regarding i-mode’s success,  they are spot on in identifying the importance of the relationships between handset manufacturer, operator, and content provider.

plus8star gives a good list of Japan firsts that help debunk the “only in Japan” approach used to dismiss much Japanese innovation:

  • Mobile email -1999
  • Camera phones and TFT colour screens – 2000
  • Commercial 3G  -2001
  • QR code reader – 2002
  • A big market for ringtones and song downloads (over 160 billion yen in 2005 according to Digital Content Association of Japan)

In a slightly more academic look at the success, this book chapter, Out of the Japanese Incubator (free download from ANU EPress) suggests a generalised 6 point model to the success of the platform.

  1. Collaborative business network between operators and manufacturers.
  2. Content aggregation.
  3. Micropayment mechanism.
  4. Independent content providers.
  5. Freedom of access outside aggregated content.
  6. Increased connectivity that results from these factors.

The book chapter also argues that rather than cultural specificity, the biggest barriers to exporting the i-mode model are likely to be 1) lack of the collaborative relationship between handset manufacturer and operator, 2) tendency for operators to enter exclusive arrangements with major content providers, and 3) the popularity of prepaid mobile phones outside of Japan.

So while western journalists and analysts got most fired up (and dismissive) about Japanese mobile telephony around 2001, Japan is still a resounding hotbed of innovation that – often years later – gets picked up in other markets. Leaving Tokyo again in 2007, I suffered major withdrawal symptoms after giving up the RFID contactless stored value card built into my phone. I didn’t know how I would be getting on trains or making payments at convenience stores.

But then again, I was coming to Canberra. I wouldn’t be using trains. Or convenience stores.

Japanese, Korean, and recently Chinese TV dramas have all boomed in export markets, if only for short-lived waves. But with all nations eager to increase exports of creative content, focus from within the industry has been drawn to intra-regional co-productions.

In an article in the Daily Yomiuri, Yoshikazu Suzuki outlines the prospect of a joint Japanese-South Korean TV drama production mooted at the third TV Drama Forum of East Asia held in Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture.

Such collaboration could see Japanese scriptwriters, for example, teaming up with Korean creative, technical, and acting talent.

The project emerged as momentum grew among the Japanese and South Korean participants toward jointly producing dramas. The project involves seven popular Japanese scriptwriters, including Yoshikazu Okada, Yumiko Inoue and Shizuka Oishi, who will write original scripts with settings in South Korea, as well as South Korean directors and actors. The project calls for each episode, which will last up to two hours, to be broadcast by TV stations in both countries after being shown in cinemas.

This would allow entry of Japanese co-produced drama onto Korean terrestrial broadcast, (the article indicates Japanese drama is still banned) and provide the Korean industry with an injection of writing talent.

It would be interesting seeing a similar use of scriptwriters filtering through to other sectors of the Korean content industry such as animation, where studios have often been met with great acclaim for their technical prowess but have fallen short of receiving similar praise for the stories that hold together original home-grown animation.

The Intellectual Property Strategic Program of 2007 (PDF version here) has as one of its many goals, to reach a conclusion on whether to extend the term of copyright protection from 50 years to 70 years by the end of the fiscal year (March 31).

Yet the working group convened under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Technology is split in whether to recommend the extension or not, according to Daily Yomiuri article by Yoshikazu Suzuki.

It is no wonder that members are split, with the panel being made up of rights holding organisations such as JASRAC and the Japan Writers Association, who of course have extending the term of protection, and lawyers and economists who feel an extension would be unfair, and would not provide any further incentive for creators to generate new copyrighted works.

The following argument makes sense if we consider that people are generally ‘rational actors’. If a novelist writes a work at 30 years of age, the current term will protect her work until she is 80 years old. For artists and creatives older than 20, the chance of the copyright expiring in their living years decreases considerably with every year that passes.

Unless, of course, copyrights are left in estate to relatives, friends, or trust funds. But clearly, those who stand to benefit most from an extension of the copyright term are the rights managing organisations themselves. As we get closer to 2010, the volume of copyrighted works that continue to expire undoubtedly grows. (I have no stats on this, but have the growth in music and television programs – given that broadcasting in Japan started in 1953 – in mind)

While proponents point to the added ‘incentive’ (of posthumous revenue?), there are also economic and creative barriers that an extension potentially raises. As Suzuki writes:

An extension would [not be without drawbacks for] copyright holders. During the Oct. 12 symposium, playwright Minoru Betsuyaku and nonfiction writer Shinichi Sano said the extension would hinder writers seeking to produce new works based on the work of past authors. It also is questionable what kinds of advantages and disadvantages would accrue to people who want to enjoy copyrighted works.

It does appear a tough one, given that the IP Strategic Headquarters wants to reconcile the rights of copyright holders with the ‘multi-use’ and reuse of content by artists and users. We know which way JASRAC are always going to vote.

The Nerima-ku municipal government have launched a cable TV channel featuring animation made by studios and production companies residing in the Tokyo city.

Mainichi Daily News tells that the program, “Neritan Anime Works” will be aired on J-COM starting this month and lasting until spring next year.

Despite neighbouring Suginami-ku being better known as a location for animation studios in recent years, Nerima is [aiming to be] regarded as the ‘birthplace’ of anime, given that the first animated feature production company Toei Animation (then Toei Doga), and first animated television series producer Osamu Tezuka’s Mushi Pro are both in Nerima.

With a former Mayor who had little interest in anime and in promoting it, the current municipal assembly has adopted the campaign “Nerima, the Birthplace of Anime” (anime no furusato Nerima) for its 60th anniversary this year. This move, which reportedly has been pushed by local businesses, is visible by the flags and posters of anime when alighting at train stations throughout the city.

With the Tokyo Games Show over, the Japan Animation Contents Meeting (JAM2007) concluding on Sunday 7th and ASIAGRAPH 2007 starting on the 11th, the content-related trade shows and festivals continue to roll as part of CoFesta in Tokyo, supported by the Ministry for Economy Trade and Investment (METI) and various industry bodies.

CoFesta continues with:

among others.

According to CoFesta site,

The Japan International Contents Festival (CoFesta) is one of the world’s largest contents festivals. Various events related to the contents industry, such as games, anime, manga (comics)/characters, broadcasting, music and films, are all held in Japan in autumn. CoFesta brings all these events together. CoFesta is for all kinds of contents emerging from Japan to influence each other and to be linked, to create new possibilities while also maintaining connections with the media technology industry for the distribution of contents, and to make a broad appeal to overseas.

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