September 23, 2020

NHK aiming to expand online broadcasting business

NHK announced a plan on Tuesday aimed at expanding its online services, a move certain to draw strong criticism from commercial broadcasters.

The public broadcaster said it plans to remove the cap on its online business spending, including on its NHK Plus service which simultaneously broadcasts TV programs on the internet. NHK currently limits such spending at or below 2.5 percent of its viewing fee revenue.

After soliciting public comments, the broadcaster plans to apply for approval from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications for the plan. NHK has so far said that its online business is a supplement service to its TV broadcasting operations.

NHK’s online business budget, excluding funds related to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, stands at ¥17 billion in fiscal 2020, or 2.4 percent of its viewing fee revenue, which totals ¥700 billion.

In the plan released Tuesday, NHK said that the proportion is expected to rise to about 2.9 percent in fiscal 2021 to fiscal 2023.

Under the NHK Plus service, launched in April, NHK currently offers simulcast TV broadcasts on the internet for 18 hours a day.

The broadcaster aims to expand broadcasting hours for NHK Plus, mainly for live programs, late at night and early in the morning.

Last year, NHK sought ministry approval for a plan to raise the proportion of online business costs to up to 3.8 percent of viewing fee revenue. But the ceiling was set at 2.5 percent, excluding spending related to the Olympics and Paralympics, due to concerns raised by commercial broadcasters over an expansion of the public broadcaster’s operations.

At a meeting of a communications ministry panel of experts Tuesday, representatives from the Japan Commercial Broadcasters Association reiterated their concern over NHK’s online business expansion. They also called for a reduction in NHK’s viewing fees.

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