NHK’s Lowest-Ever Kohaku Viewing Rates Spark Controversy Over Johnny’s Revival | FRIDAY DIGITAL

NHK’s Lowest-Ever Kohaku Viewing Rates Spark Controversy Over Johnny’s Revival

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Can we no longer rely on her?

The 74th NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen (Red and White Singing Contest) was held on last year’s New Year’s Eve, and for the first time in 44 years, there were no entries from former Johnny’s Office (now SMILE-UP.) talents. The average household viewer rating was the lowest ever recorded, and NHK is said to be in a panic. While there is a possibility that the disastrous show will be discontinued, there is already a debate within the NHK about the next Kohaku Uta Gassen in about a year.

“According to Video Research, the second part, which is the main slot airing from 9:00 PM in the Kanto region, recorded a household viewership rating of 31.9%. This is a decline of 2.4 points from the previous worst rating of 34.3% in 2021. The first part also dropped below 30% for the first time, reaching 29.0%, putting the program itself in a precarious situation. Within the broadcasting station, there is a growing suggestion that the impact of eliminating the former Johnny’s talent has exceeded expectations.” (Broadcasting Reporter)

This year’s Kohaku (Red and White Song Contest) had hosts such as Hiroyuki Ariyoshi, Kanna Hashimoto, and Minami Hamabe, desperately trying to fill the void left by the former Johnny’s talents and liven up the show. However, there were few standout performances, and the program seems to have run into the harsh reality.

“Despite the increased presence of contemporary K-POP and dance & vocal groups, seemingly to replace the former Johnny’s talent slots, it failed to resonate with the middle-aged and elderly audience. It seems these efforts did not translate into significant viewership numbers. Faced with this ‘disastrous defeat,’ there has been a succession of opinions from viewers and experts questioning the necessity and continuation of the Kohaku program. As NHK relies on subscription fees, the station executives have been grappling with these issues since the beginning of the year.” (Same source)

On the other hand, seven former Johnny’s talents, who were effectively excluded from Kohaku, conducted live streaming on New Year’s Eve via platforms such as YouTube. Particularly, “Snow Man” set a Japanese record for simultaneous connections on YouTube Live with approximately 1.33 million viewers, demonstrating an astonishing numerical power.

“If we combine the viewers of the live streams from Johnny’s former groups, the number becomes even more significant, and it is certain that Kohaku has suffered some damage. In fact, during the selection process for last year’s Kohaku participants, there were many voices within NHK advocating for the inclusion of the ‘former Johnny’s at all costs’ as a measure for viewer ratings. There was a strong desire to have groups like ‘Snow Man,’ ‘SixTONES,’ ‘Naniwa Danshi,’ and ‘King & Prince’ at least participate for the sake of ratings.

However, due to the unresolved sexual misconduct issues involving Johnny Kitagawa, it is heard that the station executives, taking into account public opinion, narrowly reached the conclusion of no Johnny’s slots just in time.” (Sports Newspaper Desk)

Therefore, the station has already begun to debate the survival of Kohaku and how to handle the old Johnny’s for this year’s New Year’s Eve Kohaku.

“In recent years, there have been 5 to 7 former Johnny’s talents participating in Kohaku. In light of the record-low viewership ratings this time, some members of the production team are starting to express the opinion that ‘it will be really tough if we don’t revive the former Johnny’s slot in the next Kohaku.’ It seems that there is a need to decide on the direction early on to avoid the possibility of not being able to secure other work.

On the other hand, many executives argue that it is still too early to decide on the resumption of the former Johnny’s slot, considering the new company ‘STARTO ENTERTAINMENT’ that handles management and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the sexual misconduct issues. Discussions are starting to take place throughout the station. While wary of the opinions against Kohaku, the clash of these perspectives seems to be intensifying.” (Wide Show Entertainment Desk)

Amid such a situation, the Kohaku side is eyeing Akina Nakamori (58), a diva who is showing signs of revival, as the strongest countermeasure against viewer ratings. Akina has not appeared in the media since her last appearance in Kohaku in 2014, and the last time she appeared in front of her fans was at a dinner show at the end of 2017. She has been on hiatus due to health problems, but in 2022, the 40th anniversary of her debut, she is making moves toward a full-fledged restart.

“Akina Nakamori established a new personal agency in August 2022 and also opened a Twitter (now X). On December 17 of the same year, she sent a voice message to the Nippon Broadcasting System special program ‘Akina Nakamori All Time Request.’

Furthermore, on the 24th of the same month, she launched a YouTube channel and uploaded videos showing the recording process of composer Tetsushi Hayashi’s 50th-anniversary album. Her unchanged beauty and distinctive vocal style, surrounded by a mysterious atmosphere, have heightened the expectations of fans, and a gradual atmosphere for her comeback is being created.

Observing this trend, it is said that the Kohaku production team has quietly started to work behind the scenes to bring Akina Nakamori to this year’s Kohaku as a highlight for rating measures. If, by any chance, Kohaku becomes a stage for Akina’s comeback, it is certain that the viewership numbers will skyrocket.” (Entertainment Company Employee)


It seems that the battle for a long-sought V-shaped recovery in viewer ratings has already begun within NHK stations, with the approach to Akina, the longing for her, and discussions about the former Johnny’s.

However, with the diversification of viewing styles, the trend of viewers moving away from traditional television is already underway. In the midst of the continually shrinking market share, the path for Kohaku to survive is challenging.


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In December 1997, at a reception following the production announcement of the drama “Cold Moon” (NTV). Normally sensitive, she was a big service to the press that day.
She picked up a tape recorder dropped by a reporter and looked each person in the eye as she answered their questions.
In August of that year, Akina attempted suicide and her personal life was in shambles. That was one of the reasons why everyone was surprised at her transformation that day.
  • PHOTO Hidetoshi Hayashi

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