Japan’s national soccer team, which was expected to have a tough time before the World Cup began, beat the powerful Spain national team 2-1 on February 2 to finish at the top of Group E. ABEMA, which broadcasts all 64 matches of the World Cup tournament in Qatar live and free of charge, saw the highest number of viewers in its history for the Japan-Spain match.
After Japan’s 2-1 come-from-behind victory and the decision to advance to the final tournament was made, AbemaTV President Susumu Fujita updated his Twitter account at 6:00 in the morning.
〈Words can’t even describe it, but ABEMA has set another record viewing despite this time of night. Thank you for watching 。。。。〉
ABEMA provided exclusive live coverage of the November 22 Argentina-Saudi Arabia match, which was not televised on terrestrial television. The following day, on November 23, the Japan national team won the match against Germany, overturning pre-match predictions and surpassing the 10 million viewer mark. On November 27, the Japan-Costa Rica match, which defied the pre-match predictions and ended in a surprising defeat, also surpassed 14 million viewers per day. Keisuke Honda, a former member of Japan’s national team who was known for his big mouth during his playing days, has become popular for his “soothsayer”-like commentary, and his breakneck momentum is unstoppable.
The average household viewer rating for the live terrestrial broadcast of the Costa Rican defeat on TV Asahi (6:40-9:10 p.m., March 27) was 42.9% (according to Video Research, Kanto region). The fact that the kickoff time was 7:00 p.m. also helped to generate a synergistic effect, as it was the highest among programs aired this year.
However, before Japan’s national team won the final Asian qualifying round at the end of March and qualified for its seventh consecutive World Cup, it was thought to be hopeless to broadcast all 64 matches live for free, as the skyrocketing cost of broadcasting rights was not enough to keep up with the “stamina” of Japanese TV stations. ABEMA saved the day.
ABEMA saved the day. “I can’t thank ABEMA enough for the World Cup broadcast rights. Frankly, I take my hat off to them!
A veteran terrestrial TV station official even dared to express his gratitude to the Internet TV station, which is now in its sixth year of operation and is essentially a rival.
How much have the broadcasting rights fees risen to the point where terrestrial TV stations are “out of their depth”?
In 1998, when Japan’s national team qualified for the World Cup in France for the first time, FIFA offered Japan a broadcasting rights fee of 550 million yen. However, in the 2002 Japan-Korea tournament, the fee jumped all the way up to 18.5 billion yen.
Pay-TV broadcasters, which have become mainstream in European soccer, began to raise their hands to purchase the World Cup broadcasting rights, and the price went into a bubble,” said the veteran broadcaster mentioned above.
FIFA offered to raise the broadcasting rights fee for Japan by several billion yen for the 2006 World Cup, and the Japanese side formed an organization called the “Japan Consortium” (JC) with NHK and commercial broadcasters, with each station collecting the broadcasting rights fee. The Japanese side formed the Japan Consortium (JC), an organization consisting of NHK and commercial broadcasters, and each broadcaster collected broadcasting rights fees.
However, the Japanese TV industry has been severely affected by the new COVID-19 crisis that has spread worldwide since the beginning of 2020, and commercial broadcasters in particular have seen their sponsorship revenues plummet over the past two years due to the COVID-19 crisis. Negotiations for broadcasting rights to terrestrial TV stations, which had been conducted concurrently behind the scenes of the Asian final qualifying rounds for the World Cup since last September, had all ended in failure, and it was even said behind the scenes that it would be virtually impossible to broadcast the World Cup free of charge in Japan this year.
ABEMA, which has been making great strides as an Internet TV station in its sixth year of operation, was the one that came to the rescue. Tomohisa Nomura, executive officer in charge of FIFA World Cup 2022 at ABEMA, looks back.
The idea for the World Cup broadcasting rights came to ABEMA’s general producer, Susumu Fujita,” said Tomohisa Nomura, executive officer in charge of FIFA World Cup 2022 at ABEMA. （I don’t think there was a long period of time and a lot of back-and-forth (in making the internal decision).”
According to multiple TV station insiders, of the 35 billion yen in broadcasting rights fees, the estimated amount paid by ABEMA is 20 billion yen. The ratio of NHK to commercial broadcasters in broadcasting rights fees to Japan for the past six tournaments is said to be 6:4, with NHK paying 9 billion yen of the remaining 15 billion yen and TV Asahi and Fuji Television 6 billion yen. This time, NTV and TBS did not raise their hands to acquire the World Cup broadcasting rights.
The 20 billion yen is “out of pocket. As Susumu Fujita posted on his Twitter account, “This will be the largest investment ever made by Abema,” the “huge purchase” was made because of the “Uma Musume Pretty Derby (Uma Musume)” mobile game developed by Cygames, a subsidiary of Server Agent, of which Fujita serves as president. developed by Cygames, a subsidiary of Server Agent, of which Mr. Fujita is the president, became an unprecedented mega-hit worldwide.
According to the 2021 mobile game software sales figures released in December 2021 by Sensor Tower, a U.S. app research company, “Umamusume” generated approximately $965 million (¥109.6 billion) worldwide. Furthermore, the company’s sales announced in June of this year for the first half of 2022 were also tops in Japan at $400 million (approx. 55.2 billion yen). Although the game has recently lost some of its initial momentum, it has also been released in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Macau, and its popularity is spreading overseas as well.
When the draw for the tournament was first made, Japan was placed in the same group as Germany and Spain, and Moriyasu Japan’s pledge to make the “World Cup last eight” was said to be a thorny issue. Furthermore, there were whispers among the soccer media that Japan would not be able to make the top eight in the next World Cup in 2026.
The next World Cup in 2026 will be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico, and the United States. The number of participating countries will increase from 32 this time to 48, and the number of Asian countries will also increase by three, so there will be eight slots available. With Japan’s current strength, the Asian qualifying rounds will not have the same tension and excitement as the previous rounds, where a loss would be a pinch.
Furthermore, when World Cup games are televised in the Americas, they will be televised during the time when Major League Baseball is being played. In other words, in Japan, most viewers are working or taking classes if they are students in the morning, so terrestrial TV stations are expected to have a hard time even if they televise the games. However, the situation was not as bad as it had appeared.
However, when the tournament opened, Japan’s national team, despite taking a one-goal lead against supposedly difficult rivals Germany and Spain, pulled off a 2-1 comeback to change the “mood of stagnation” that had been prevailing prior to the tournament.
Before the tournament, Mr. Nomura, the executive officer in charge of the team, told FRIDAY Digital, “The appeal of Japan’s national soccer team as a content source is very strong.
I believe that the appeal of the Japanese national soccer team as a content is still very strong. If you don’t know the names of the players or don’t recognize their faces, it only means that there are fewer opportunities to watch and learn about them. We were not able to take on the challenge when we first started the station, but we have made a lot of trial and error up to this point, and I think we have earned the right to take on the challenge of handling such great content as the World Cup. （We want to unite and energize Japan by having people watch the World Cup. As a media outlet, we want to make that happen.
With the mega-hit of “Uma Musume,” the largest “purchase” in history, estimated at 20 billion yen, can be considered a huge success so far. Whether this will lead to a recovery in the popularity of Japanese soccer and the value of its contents remains to be seen.