Nadeshiko Japan, Japan’s national team that became the world’s number one women’s soccer team at the 2011 Women’s World Cup, will participate in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which opens on July 20, 2011. Nadeshiko Japan is a talented nation that has competed in nine consecutive tournaments, but terrestrial TV broadcasting in Japan is in danger of disappearing. At the end of last year, NHK was planning to broadcast live on terrestrial TV, but that plan has been scrapped. Why is this?
“There are no players who have ‘character’…”
The number of participating countries in the Women’s World Cup has increased by eight to 32 this year, and the total prize money for the tournament has increased significantly to 110 million dollars (approximately 15.4 billion yen), nearly four times the amount of the previous tournament. Gianni Infantino, 53, president of FIFA, who wanted to finance the tournament with TV broadcasting rights fees from each participating country, made the following comment at a discussion hosted by the World Trade Organization in May after making the strong statement that he would not sell the Women’s World Cup on the cheap.
TV stations (around the world) are willing to pay $100 to $200 million for the men’s World Cup, but for the women’s World Cup they are only willing to offer $1 to $10 million. Don’t you think this is strange? This is a slap in the face to the legends of the Women’s World Cup and to all women around the world!”
The broadcasting rights fee FIFA offered Japanese TV stations for the men’s tournament in Qatar last December was about 35 billion yen. For the Women’s World Cup, FIFA’s offer is estimated to be 11.6 billion yen, one-third of this amount.
The JFA officials also said, “We heard that NHK was about to be chosen, and the JFA was relieved to hear that. However, by the end of the year, NHK’s unofficial decision was no longer made. This was because FIFA had firmly rejected the “price-cutting negotiations” with NHK.
It is hoped that the excitement generated by the men’s team’s victory over the past World Cup winners Germany and Spain will have a ripple effect on women’s soccer, but the reality is that this is not always the case.
For example, Nadeshiko Japan played two friendly matches in Japan on October 6 and 9 last year. The attendance for the Nigeria match, which was a night game on a weekday, was only 1,671, while the match against New Zealand on October 9, which was on a Sunday, drew 4,110, not even close to 10,000 spectators. A reporter in charge of soccer revealed, “In 2011, we won the World Cup and became the first team to win the World Cup.
In 2011, Nadeshiko won the World Cup and became the number one team in the world. At that time, there were talented players such as Hotoki Sawa and Aya Miyama, and there were players with strong characters such as Keirina Maruyama, who has now become a mama-san TV personality, but unfortunately none of them are in the current Nadeshiko team.
Women’s soccer has become a major sport in Europe, and this season’s Champions League final between Barcelona and Wolfsburg, held on June 3 at the PSV Stadium in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, was the first ever to sell out. The two semifinal matches also drew crowds of more than 60,000, which explains why FIFA has significantly increased its broadcasting rights fees. A director of a commercial TV station in charge of soccer revealed, “Unfortunately, Japanese TV stations are not able to broadcast the games to female viewers.
Unfortunately, no Japanese TV station has the strength to pay more than 10 billion yen for the Women’s World Cup.
It was thought that NHK was the only TV station that could meet the TV broadcasting rights fee offered by FIFA on a stand-alone basis. While the COVID-19 crisis has caused a sharp decline in sponsorship revenues, and commercial broadcasters have been drained across the board, NHK has 670 billion yen in subscription revenues alone, even though its non-consolidated results for FY2022 show a fourth consecutive year of declining revenues. Of this amount, 40% is used each year to cover program production costs and broadcasting rights fees.
The production cost of the year-end Kohaku Uta Gassen is also “undisclosed,” and the cost of each episode of the Taiga Drama is said to run into the tens of millions of yen. It has already been reported that the Japan Sumo Association, which broadcasts six sumo tournaments a year from the first day to the last day of the tournament, pays 500 million yen per tournament, or more than 3 billion yen per year in broadcasting rights fees. The money on the surface would give the impression that NHK still has some strength left in it, but the reality is otherwise.
Is there an “Ultra C” for terrestrial broadcasting?
NHK’s predicament came to the surface with the series of events leading up to the decision to broadcast the men’s World Cup soccer tournament on terrestrial TV at the end of last year. A reporter in charge of soccer revealed the following.
FIFA offered Japanese TV stations 35 billion yen for the broadcasting rights to the Qatar tournament, and none of the commercial broadcasters could afford to pay the fee alone. Even NHK, the last bastion of Japanese TV, was unable to do anything about it. So, Abema, an Internet TV station, purchased the rights for 20 billion yen. While Abema’s decision to broadcast not only the Japan matches but all 48 matches live on terrestrial broadcasting was praised, it also highlighted the fact that NHK is no longer able to spend money as freely as it once did. However, it also brought to light the fact that NHK is not in a position to spend money as freely as it once did.
Furthermore, NHK announced a revised draft of its “Management Plan (for fiscal years 2021-2023)” last October. It made a major “slimming down” declaration, including lowering subscription fees and reducing the number of channels. NHK also decided to reduce broadcasting rights fees for sports coverage, which it had been spending like hot water, by more than 15 billion yen under the guise of “cutting into fixed costs such as capital investment. On the other hand, NHK introduced a system in April of this year that allows it to charge a surcharge to those who illegally do not pay their subscription fees.
However, the use of those subscription fees is a major topic of debate every year in the Diet, which approves the budget. The public is becoming more and more critical of how the uniformly collected fees are being used, and NHK is very sensitive to the reaction of the general public not only to the content of its programs, but also to how the money is being used. This is the reason why NHK is “reluctant to pay out” the broadcasting rights fee for the World Cup. A director in charge of soccer at a commercial broadcaster stated, “The president of FIFA said, ‘The Women’s World Cup is a great event.
The fact that the FIFA president declared, ‘We will not sell the broadcasting right fee for the Women’s World Cup at a low price,’ was a good thing for NHK, which had already decided to air the games. They must be relieved. What would the public think if NHK signed a broadcasting rights contract worth nearly 10 billion yen for the Women’s World Cup, which unfortunately is still a minor sport in Japan? If the Diet were to question the significance of such a deal, there would be no excuse, not even an excuse to plead.
So, is it true that Nadeshiko Japan’s World Cup triumph will not be shown on terrestrial TV?
There is an ultra C. We can negotiate with FIFA for broadcasting rights fees of 1 billion yen per game for Japan’s matches alone, but I don’t think NHK will pay it. But I don’t think NHK will pay it.
The last time Japan became the world’s number one women’s team at the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany, the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami struck three months before the tournament, and people, especially those living in eastern Japan, were still gritting their teeth in the midst of reconstruction efforts. Nadeshiko Japan’s World Cup victory encouraged the people of Japan to get back on their feet, and there was a “Nadeshiko boom” after the tournament, but that is now an old story. Saki Kumagai, a member of the winning team at that time, will lead the team in this tournament. If the tournament continues to go on without a terrestrial broadcaster, one wonders how the girls will feel when they go out on the pitch to compete in the world’s most prestigious tournament.