By Yanelis Garcia
Television programming has always been big in Japan, with the average Japanese person spending two hours watching TV every day. But recently, due to the impact of COVID-19 and the constant creation of new content, consumers have moved to SVOD platforms (subscription video on demand) for entertainment.
Based on a report by Gem Partners, the domestic streaming market in Japan was valued at over 450 billion yen in 2022, and is expected to continue growing as more TV consumers convert into platform subscribers. Because of its growth potential, the industry has become quite fragmented, with over 12 companies fighting for market share. Streaming platforms are also in high competition with local content providers – many of which focus on anime. In this article, we discuss which major players make up the Japanese streaming market, and how you can find success in Japan as well.
The Japanese Video Streaming Market
The video streaming market in Japan grew tenfold during the pandemic. During this time, populations across the globe spent more time at home than ever before. Because of this, the demand and supply of new TV & Film content skyrocketed during 2021. This also led to more content being watched online, such as music videos, TV shows, and movies. According to GWI data, about 56% of Japanese consumers, between the ages of 16 and 64 cited this as a primary reason for using the Internet. An additional 16% use the web to tune into video live streams, watch sports highlights or comedic viral videos.
Because of this shift in consumer behavior, money spent on video-on-demand content has exponentially increased in Japan. Coupled with more time at home and a rise in smartphone usage, a key success factor for video streaming providers is ensuring consumers the ability to watch content on any device.
By May of 2022, Japan had over 48 million subscribers to video streaming platforms. Almost half of the market share belonged to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Both U.S.-based services entered the Japanese market in 2015, DAZN followed in 2016, then Disney in 2019.
As previously mentioned, SVOD content is watched on both large and small screens in Japan, including smartphones.
- Consumer insights from GWI show that, of Japanese internet users aged 16-64, over 90% own a smartphone
- With reliable, high-speed connection in Japan, smartphone users are able to stream high-definition video content more frequently
These factors have helped SVOD platforms become some of the most downloaded mobile apps in Japan.
With an increase in potential customers, the competition in the video streaming industry has grown significantly since 2015. Service providers are customizing and expanding their content, investing millions in development and partnerships. Most important however, is local content. Both anime and live-action dramas play a critical role in bringing in new Japanese subscribers.
Amazon Prime Video – Japan’s Most Popular Streaming Platform
Data compiled by GEM Partners, estimated Amazon Prime Video to have a 12% share of the SVOD market in 2021, based on revenue. In terms of subscriptions, Prime Video actually sits at the top with the most subscribers in the Japanese streaming market. According to a data report by Media Partners Asia, by 2021 Prime Video secured more than 15 million monthly active users and 26% of watch time. Netflix, which had 10% of video streaming minutes and 6 million subscribers, followed behind. Hulu Japan, which is owned by Nippon TV, had three million subscribers and a tail of competitors gaining market share.
How did Amazon find success in Japan?
Amazon first entered the Japanese market in 2000 as the classic e-commerce site. As they acquired more and more users, this helped drive awareness for Prime Video. This strategy was key for new customer acquisition since they entered the Japanese streaming market after Netflix. According to The “Japan Online Video Consumer Insights & Analytics” Report by Media Partners Asia, Amazon maintains a significant lead with over 16.5 million subscribers and over a quarter of the market. They feature a robust selection of local programming as well.
Netflix – Market Leader Enters Japan
Netflix is an American media company that provides a subscription-based service where users can access their in-depth library of TV and Film content. A recent report published by GEM Partners earlier this year, noted that in Japan, Netflix was the leading subscription service in 2022 based on revenue. But with the fierce competition in Japan, the market-share rankings within the industry change on a regular basis. Despite the numbers, Netflix is a market leader both in Japan and around the world.
2021 was a big year for Netflix Japan specifically though:
- During the pandemic, Netflix acquired an additional 2 million Japanese subscribers bringing its total to a little over 5 million, out of its 232 million worldwide
- The company announced a huge expansion of its Japanese film and TV slate, in an effort to strengthen its position in the Japanese market, while also exposing its Japanese programming to other international markets
- They signed a long-term lease in Tokyo for local productions, including a creators’ lounge focused on animation
- They raised the prices of its streaming plans to fund content production
In 2021 Sakamoto Kaata, Netflix VP of content in Japan, commented about the expansion plan: “Our next big bet is expanding feature films. Japan is home to extraordinary talent who shape the cinematic history of the world. With creators as diverse as the ones we work with today, we’re excited to play a role in the history of great local talent, finding their voices and delivering them to audiences everywhere.”
In terms of minutes consumed, Netflix falls behind Amazon Prime, TVer and Abema TV, but ahead of the locally-owned Hulu Japan.
How did Netflix find success in Japan?
Japanese consumers have high brand sensitivity and are more reluctant to adopt outside brands and entities, than other markets. Because of this, local partnerships with anime studios, filmmakers and thought leaders was crucial to Netflix’s success in penetrating the market. Local original content such as Terrace House and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, as well as streaming licensed anime shows were factors for their success.
Their push for more localized content helped them achieve their market share. This emphasizes the importance of localization and translation services if you are entering the Japanese market. Tokyoesque provides services in this area to ensure your success.
Want to hear our insights on Netflix’s 2019 “Queer Eye: We’re in Japan”? Find out here.
Other Foreign Streaming Industry Competitors in Japan
Disney’s streaming platform entered Japan and launched their service in 2020. Research data from MPA also shows that between July and September of 2022, Disney+ became the third most popular streaming service in Japan. Disney+ has almost 4 million Japanese subscribers, overtaking Hulu Japan. Interestingly, while Hulu Japan is owned by Nippon Television, its US counterpart Hulu is operated by Disney in the United States.
How did they do it? Reasons why Disney+ was able to grow in Japan include promotional discounts, specialized content for kids, and access to unique franchises. To increase their market share, the company aims to produce more localized content in the near future.
The American SVOD platform operates as a Japanese streaming service through Nippon TV. There is a reason why all the other competitors were being compared to Hulu. Originally having entered the market in 2011, they did not find success and pulled out. Hulu was meant to provide Japanese consumers access to their TV & Film catalogue in English and Japanese, and wanted to market itself as the fastest provider to bring episodes of foreign shows to Japan.
But why did Hulu fail in Japan? Unfortunately, due to a lack of local content, their value proposition was not enough for the Japanese market. While translation is a big part of localization, localizing your services by having your own local content in the market you are entering is key. By the end of 2022, Hulu Japan had a little over 3 million subscribers.
Japanese TV & Local Providers
In terms of Japanese service providers, U-NEXT has the largest market share after acquiring the Paravi video-streaming platform, which is known for its Japanese dramas series. The streaming service is owned by Usen-Next Holdings.
How did they do it? In March 2021, U-NEXT began offering a selection of HBOMax content in Japan which raised their market share to 12% in that quarter. U-NEXT viewership mainly consists of Japanese anime, Asian dramas, and adult content. With a good mix of local and foreign content, by the end of 2022, The MPA Report shows that U-NEXT overtook Hulu Japan in subscriptions with an estimated 3.7 million under their belt. By acquiring Paradi, they are able to manage content development, which can be a huge cost for Streamers, but is needed to retain customers.
Their strategy is to elevate the quality of live action Japanese content while also licensing popular anime. But, with the rise of originals, as we see with Netflix and their releases of First Love, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure and Alice in Borderland, U-NEXT aims to create more first-title programming as well.
TVer, an advertising-supported video-on-demand platform, performed very well in 2022 as well. Their growth was driven by prime-time Japanese TV dramas, variety shows and news. And while the other streamers dominate market share by total number of subscribers, in terms of time actually watched across all premium video services, TVer accounted for 29%. According to The “Japan Online Video Consumer Insights & Analytics” Report by Media Partners Asia, Amazon Prime Video took 18%, Rakuten TV 10%, Netflix 9%, U-Next 8% and Abema TV 7%. At some point last year TVer even captured 16% of the video streaming market, while ad-supported AbemaTV had 11%.
After realizing the major shift in consumer behaviour, especially amongst the younger population, there is no surprise as to why Japanese broadcasting companies have also entered the streaming space. Alongside Hikari TV, other Japanese service providers include SkyPerfecTV!, WOWOW, iTSCOM, and J:COM On Demand.
Interested in how Japanese media promotes audience engagement through the use of “tarento”? Learn here.
Lemino (formerly dTV)
Another local service, Lemino from NTT Docomo (until early 2023 known as dTV and owned by Avex Broadcasting and Communications), offers exclusive Japanese content. While it benefitted from a massive portion of the market share in previous years, sitting at 24.1% in 2016, this steadily fell to 4.2% by 2022 according to GEM Partners.
D Anime Store
Lemino’s sister platform D Anime Store (also owned by NTT Docomo) caters to the anime audience – and does this well. According to data from Statistica, both services have a modest share (4-5%) of the overall SVOD market in Japan, followed by smaller players including Telasa, Fuji TV On Demand, and Anime Hodai. This is where we start to see the market fragment with local service providers in a sea of competition.
Want to learn about how anime is used in advertising in Japan? Read our insights here.
While the television and media industry, including the dominating anime and manga segment, are mature in Japan, entertainment companies still have a great opportunity to thrive in the Japanese market. Revenues are expected to grow exponentially as more television watchers become content subscribers. To penetrate the Japanese market though, it’s important to have a digital presence and online service that can also be accessible through smartphones.
In the SVOD space, while Amazon Prime Video maintains market leadership with more than 16 million subscribers, its annual growth has slowed. Netflix has around 7 million customers and 15% market share. Disney+ grew in the second half of 2022 with its kids franchises driving viewership. While competition is high, there is always room for new content to capture the heart (and eyes) of the robust and diverse Japanese market.
Through our assessment of the Japanese streaming market, the most important factor for success is being able to develop local content. A lack of such can result in failed options which we saw with Hulu when it first launched in Japan back in 2011.
Tokyoesque can help companies in their marketing activities and localization efforts when preparing for their market expansion into Japan. It’s unwise to dive straight in without guidance, so lean on us to improve your strategy and increase your chances of capturing the Japanese audience. Contact Tokyoesque.
Alternatively, feel free to get in touch and see how we can help you develop your offering in the Japanese market.