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Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2007
J:COM poised to show HBO hits on TV, for fee
Starting Oct. 1, viewers in Japan will be able to tune in to such popular Home Box Office programs as "The Sopranos" and "Band of Brothers" via Jupiter Telecommunications Co.'s cable TV service.
HBO and J:COM signed a license agreement Aug. 24 that will allow the U.S. premium television service to provide 80 episodes of four programs each month — some of them never before seen in Japan — through J:COM's on-demand service.
American and South Korean programs already available in Japan, including on the major TV networks, have increasingly found an audience.
"The Japanese television viewers predominantly watched Japanese productions," Stanley Fertig, senior vice president of HBO International, said in an interview last week while in Tokyo for a promotional visit. "But over the past few years, Japanese viewers have been opening themselves to foreign programming."
As part of its global strategy, HBO has been launching on-demand programming, Fertig said, adding the service is now available in such countries as Britain and Israel.
"Japan is one of the most important television markets on Earth," Fertig said.
J:COM director Toru Kato said he hopes the new programming will help spread on-demand services in Japan, particularly among families with parents in their 40s and 50s.
"We have been offering on-demand service for 2 1/2 years, but most people are still not familiar with the service," Kato said. "If we have good programs, more subscribers will watch."
As of the end of July, J:COM had about 2.7 million subscribers in the Kanto and Kansai regions, and Kyushu as well as in Sapporo.
J:COM's service, which costs ¥4,980 a month, gives viewers access to more than 100 channels. HBO's pay-per-view shows will cost an additional ¥300 per episode.
The four shows from HBO available from October are "The Sopranos," about a mob boss facing a midlife crisis; "Big Love," about a polygamist with three wives, making its Japanese debut on the J:COM service; the comedy series "Entourage," and "From the Earth to the Moon," a 12-part series about the Apollo expeditions.
"Sex and the City," a story of four women in Manhattan struggling to balance work and romance that became a hit in Japan, will not be available because HBO has a license agreement with a different Japanese distributor.