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Public broadcaster NHK to join online streaming platform run by private networks

This Jan. 13, 2015 file photo shows the NHK Broadcasting Center, in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Public broadcaster NHK is considering joining an online streaming platform run by five major Tokyo-based TV networks, according to NHK and network officials.

The TVer platform allows viewers to watch programs they missed at the time of original airing for one week free of charge, and is supported by advertising revenue. With NHK's participation, the online platform will become Japan's first TV program streaming site covering both public and private broadcasters.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications is poised to back the platform in a bid to counter overseas online streaming providers such as Netflix of the United States.

Some inside the government are proposing to make TVer into a comprehensive streaming site by adding simulcast, or streaming programs at the same time as they are broadcast, before the start of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.

NHK is expected to decide as early as this autumn to join the TVer platform, but the broadcaster is still considering when to launch its programs on the steaming service.

NHK's participation in TVer has been requested by the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association. Its former president Hiroshi Inoue, an adviser to Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc., said in a speech in March that he had repeatedly asked NHK President Ryoichi Ueda to join the platform with the public broadcaster's "most powerful" programs.

NHK is required to cooperate with private broadcasters in simulcasting its programs online starting as early as fiscal 2019. The requirement was included in a draft report of a communications ministry expert panel that green-lit NHK simulcasts. Participation in TVer is a step to fulfill this call.

NHK has revealed that it is considering investing in JOCDN, a company supporting online video streaming managed by 15 private broadcasters and Internet Initiative Japan, a major internet and network service provider. Through such collaborations, NHK wants to alleviate complaints from the private sector that the giant public broadcaster is squeezing its private competitors.

When it joins TVer, NHK plans to also make programs available on its video streaming service NHK On Demand free of charge for one week after their original airing.

TVer launched in October 2015 with five private networks in Tokyo offering dramas and variety programs. Four Osaka-based broadcasters came on board later, and now the platform offers 170 programs to view on personal computers and mobile devices. The subscription application had been downloaded more than 13 million times as of June this year.

(Japanese original Naoki Inukai, Hisanori Yashiro and Tomohiro Inoue, Cultural News Department)

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