May 09, 2019

TV Japan and NHK World

Much of the programming on NHK World and TV Japan is repurposed from NHK's two terrestrial channels, NHK G ("general") and NHK ETV ("educational"), and its satellite network. Along with original content created specifically for NHK World and TV Japan by the Japan International Broadcasting Company (JIB).

JIB "produces English-language programs about Japan and Asia for an international audience." It is majority-owned by NHK with outside investors such as Microsoft and Mizuho Bank. The most prominent entry in the lineup is NHK Newsline, broadcast on NHK World at the top of every hour and delivered by English-speaking anchors.

Aside from the news, NHK World's programming revolves around a six-hour block that repeats four times a day, with most episodes rerunning several times a week. The net result is only a few hours of original programming every day, in addition to the sumo coverage and documentary specials.

One of NHK World's big draws is its sumo tournament coverage, provided on a time-delayed basis during the week and live on the weekends. The same English-language commentary is available on TV Japan using the SAP option.

NHK World's sister network is TV Japan, branded "NHK World Premium" outside North America. It is a subscription Japanese-language service that draws more heavily from NHK G and the NHK satellite network. The news is directly sourced from domestic Japanese broadcasts. There are very few reruns and repeats in the schedule.

Along with NHK's flagship Taiga and Asadora dramas, TV Japan carries NHK's scripted dramas, documentaries, and edutainment shows, along with a curated selection of popular shows from Japan's commercial networks. The higher-brow stuff, mind you, but not necessarily that high brow. Shows that regularly top the ratings.

NHK takes that "general" seriously and works hard to appeal to an audience larger than, for example, PBS. In Japan, it's not unusual for NHK to win its time slot.

In North America, TV Japan tries to maintain a consistent programming grid that approximates the prime time lineup in Japan. So, for example, the Sunday Taiga drama is broadcast at 8:00 PM in Japan and 8:00 PM EST in the United States (6:00 PM MST).

News is mostly the live NHK feed, though it may be time-shifted an hour or two depending on Daylight Saving Time and other factors. That means Good Morning Japan (early edition) comes on at 3:00 PM MDT and at 5:00 PM MDT (late edition).

Other than some subtitled movies and anime, TV Japan localizes very little of its content. This allows TV Japan to carry a wide slate of domestic programming soon after being broadcast in Japan and sometimes live. If you're a Japanese beginner, you'll be more comfortable with NHK World.

NHK World is a free public service. In Northern Utah, NHK World is broadcast over-the-air on UEN 9.4. Thirty-minute NHK World segments are carried on the PBS subchannels as well. NHK World is available on Roku and other streaming devices.

TV Japan has significantly expanded its distribution network in the past year. It is available on DirecTV (satellite) and Xfinity (cable), and via local cable and IPTV providers. But it has also become less affordable as a standalone option.

TV Japan isn't available on Sling International, DirecTV Now, or Xfinity Instant TV. I can only hope that TV Japan is holding back the streaming rights because it intends to launch a live streaming service like HBO Now. The pieces are already in place.

NHK Cosmomedia has NHK World up and running as a live streaming service, with apps for Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV and Android. The only new feature TV Japan would need is a program guide. All the functionality is there. Video-on-demand services like dLibrary Japan actually require a more complex interface.

dLibrary Japan is a video-on-demand service for content that NHK Cosmomedia originally licensed for TV Japan. At $9.99/month, it's pricier than anime services like Crunchyroll, but more affordable than TV Japan.

NHK's 2018–2019 Corporate Profile (PDF in English) provides a colorfully illustrated overview of the organization.

Related sites

dLibrary Japan
NHK World
TV Japan

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