Former TV Tokyo Producer Thrives and Speaks Out Criticizing Former Workplace | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Former TV Tokyo Producer Thrives and Speaks Out Criticizing Former Workplace

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Why TV TOKYO Gave Up on “Wide Na Show”

Television Tokyo is said to have suffered almost no damage thanks to its original line, even in the case of the alleged sexual assault of Hitoshi Matsumoto and the sexual assault of Johnny’s. Continuing from the first part, we will discuss the “Teletei Spirit,” which is the basis of its original line. Continuing from the first part, Mr. Toshihiko Tabuchi, former producer of TV TOKYO and professor of J. F. Oberlin University’s College of Art and Design, will discuss in depth the “Spirit of TV TOKYO” that lies at the root of the original line that has remained unwavering.

What is the “Spirit of TV TOKYO” that lies at the root of TV TOKYO’s unshakeable original line…The Roppongi Grand Tower, which houses TV TOKYO (PHOTO: AFLO)

The “Give it a try” spirit

Why is TV TOKYO able to follow such a unique path?

It is because it is nimble. Behind the word light are three few circumstances.

  • Less revenue.
  • Small viewership (low)
  • Small number of viewers.

The second small factor, small (low) viewer ratings, is due to the fact that the company entered the market 11 years after the first station opened. While other stations depend on specific talents and offices to earn viewership ratings, TV TOKYO, which has low viewership ratings to begin with, does not rely on specific talents and offices because it does not have high expectations.

In drama productions as well, TV TOKYO is not a concern of the agencies, as they prefer to place betas in other stations’ drama broadcast slots where high viewer ratings can be expected. However, even among such disadvantages, advantages have emerged.

That’s the spirit of “give it a try.” At TV Tokyo, there used to be a mindset of “Since our ratings are low anyway, why not try something daring?” When someone, even a new assistant director (AD) right out of school, casually mentioned a new idea during a planning meeting, it often got approved with a response like, “Well, why don’t we give that a shot?” That’s how decisions were often made at TV Tokyo.

In contrast, what about programs featuring big-name talents on other networks?

For example, in the case of variety shows, there are weekly or biweekly brainstorming sessions where the main talent might attend, or if not, the show’s dedicated comedy writers will be present. In essence, these sessions are heavily curated. In such an atmosphere, it’s unlikely that a low-ranking AD would be able to speak up. Even if they did, their ideas might be disregarded by the entourage, who are inclined to pander to the main talent, without them even saying a word. The ultimate outcome would be dissent from the cronies: “That’s not funny,” or “Isn’t that off-topic?” Their fear of getting reprimanded later drives this behavior.

In a certain program where I previously directed, there was always tension in the air during meetings. Whenever a fresh idea emerged, the entourage would inevitably shoot it down with comments like, “I don’t think that’ll work,” or “I don’t like that.” They were afraid of getting scolded afterward.

Every time, those around me wanted to argue back with, “But the viewers want to see that!” or “We didn’t ask for your opinion. Did the talent say that?” But they held their tongues, stifled by the atmosphere of deference. Who can say with certainty that this atmosphere of timidity wasn’t present in the programs hosted by the big-name talents or the talents represented by major agencies that are now being called into question?

Failure is nothing to be ashamed of, and it is natural.

In March 2010, TV TOKYO began an experiment called the “Young Video Grand Prix”. Under this program, TV Tokyo employees under 30 years of age compete for a terrestrial broadcast slot by creating videos with a budget of 1 million yen each, a maximum duration of 15 minutes, and any genre they wish.

This initiator was a young director in his third year of employment, and similarly, the creators of the winning piece “Raiken Nippon Hair” were also young employees in their third year. The unconventional content of the quiz show in a fictional country garnered significant attention online.


TV Tokyo has always had a mentality of being the underdog, where losing is natural and there is a prevailing atmosphere of “it’s not embarrassing to fail; it’s normal.” Consequently, there is little severe criticism for minor failures.


There’s a culture of allowing for second chances or trying again. Even if someone fails, there are many individuals skilled at providing support. When viewership ratings are poor, the individuals involved may feel down, but they are often praised with comments like, “The content was good, it’s a shame,” or “You did well under tough circumstances,” acknowledging their efforts. Seniors often appreciate the effort regardless of the outcome, recognizing the significance of the attempt. They praise the failure.


We need a lot of people who can do anything.

Regarding the third point, a small and small number of people, to be honest, this is quite difficult. The time we have to broadcast is the same as other stations. To make up for that with half the number of people, it would simply be a matter of working twice as hard. But that is not realistically possible. The shortage of human resources, which can be called the lifeline of program production, is an extremely great handicap for a TV station.

So what did TV TOKYO do?

It decided to increase the number of generalists rather than specialists. While it may be ideal to nurture experts who excel in a certain field, the company abandoned that ideal and decided that we need a lot of people who can do everything.

From a business management perspective, this is quite reasonable. The more specialized a person is, the more time he or she tends to spend on a single project. If only such personnel are employed, efficiency will inevitably decline. With a small number of people, the broadcasting business cannot be fulfilled without thinking about how to efficiently produce content.

A specialist is a director in program production, while a generalist plays the role of a producer. TV TOKYO has more producers than other stations. At the same time, because it has fewer employees, it relies on outside staff, such as production companies, to help with program production.


The situation behind TV TOKYO being the only station that always has animation and regular programs.

The situation of having a small number of employees has come at a great cost to the company as a broadcaster. For example, TV TOKYO has given up its wide-ranging programs. It takes a lot of people, time, and money to produce the morning and afternoon wide shows that other stations always have. That is why TV TOKYO still does not have a wide show.

Even now that I have left TV TOKYO, I often hear people say, “TV TOKYO has a wonderful original line.” They are referring to the phenomenon that even when there is a major news story that all the stations are following at once, TV TOKYO is the only one that is doing animation and regular programs without a care in the world. He may be praising us for being painfully good, but this, too, has to do with the number of employees. When a case breaks out in which all the stations are competing with each other, TV TOKYO dares to stay out of it. Although individual creators may be driven by a sense of mission or a competitive spirit, TV TOKYO cannot afford to devote personnel to such a situation.


However, the fact that the number of employees is smaller than that of rivals is both a disadvantage and an advantage. It means that there are more opportunities to be given chances within the company. It is easy to understand by comparing it to a sporting event. Soccer is played by 11 players, but which is more difficult, becoming a regular member of a team with 50 members or becoming a regular member of a team with 13 members? It is the same thing.

In both work and sports, there are many things that can only be learned through performance rather than practice. The only place where you can really train yourself is in the field. It is wonderful to have more opportunities to experience, make mistakes, and learn on the job, rather than just thinking about it in your head. You will always be able to develop your abilities.

TV TOKYO is always short of personnel, so if you fix the movement of people, they will not be able to work. On the other hand, if someone is always on the move, it is likely that many people will say, “Can someone do this for me?” If someone is always on the move, there will be a lot of “Can someone else do this?”

If you become a generalist who can do a variety of things and have more opportunities to challenge yourself in areas you are not necessarily good at, you will eventually be given more responsibility, and you will be able to do more work. This is the perfect environment for people who are motivated, who want to improve themselves, and who want to be challenged. Challengers are welcome.


TV TOKYO employees being trained in the field

At TV Tokyo, it’s actually quite common to become a producer relatively quickly compared to other networks. The reality is that if you’re not a forced-growth or immediate-impact type, you won’t be able to keep up with broadcasting duties.


There isn’t much time to patiently wait for employees to develop, so they are often thrown into the fray and trained on the job. While this approach inevitably leads to some failures, talent always emerges. As the current production bureau chief, Takayuki Ito, always says, “It’s better to fail more often.” It’s a pinpointed perspective.


At TV Tokyo, there’s no seniority when it comes to pitching ideas.


Essentially, anyone who pitches an idea can become a producer, so if your proposal is accepted, you can become the person in charge of the program without your past track record being questioned. There’s no hierarchy based on seniority. In fact, there’s a bit of an atmosphere where it’s difficult for those higher up to give orders to those below. Therefore, individuals who boast about their past experiences as craftsmen are, in my experience, much fewer compared to other networks.


Due to the smaller number of employees, TV Tokyo’s organizational structure is much more transparent compared to other networks. The atmosphere within the company is very friendly, and everyone feels like they know each other. Even if you’re in different departments, there’s a sense of openness, and people can easily consult each other.


Currently, TV Tokyo’s headquarters in Roppongi consists of large open-plan offices. For example, on the 13th floor where the production bureau is located, sections such as programming, sales, marketing, and distribution business are all cohabitating. This layout allows for easy interaction and communication among different departments, fostering a culture of collaboration and idea exchange.


TV Tokyo the “underdog” share price is next to TBS

At the present time, as of March 1st, 2024, 16:00, the stock price of each commercial broadcasting company shows TBS leading at 4057 yen, followed by Teletokyo at 3015 yen, which is higher than Nippon TV’s 2144 yen. I analyze that such evaluation reflects Teletokyo’s appropriate size for the post-growth era and its management policy that seems to fit with eco and SDGs-oriented thinking.

The downsizing of the organization contributes to its slimness. This allows Teletokyo to adapt flexibly and responsively to the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) era, where unexpected events can occur. This is the current situation I observe at Teletokyo.

However, I would like to express some critical remarks at the end of this article.

Has the underdog Teletokyo, which had many disadvantages, become too complacent due to its favorable stock prices and net profits?

Teletokyo, which started its broadcasting about 10 years later than other stations, was once considered a venture entity with only the scale of a local station despite being called the Tokyo key station. Therefore, it could boldly challenge anything and even embrace failure, and its free corporate culture garnered support even from university students.

However, it’s a fact that successful venture companies sometimes become arrogant after their success, lose their original strengths, and fall into dysfunction. Teletokyo, which is strong in economic reporting, should be well aware of this phenomenon, but does it have the consciousness to address it?

I urge you to reconsider this challenging spirit and consciousness of being different from other companies that have turned the three disadvantages of low revenue, low viewership (ratings), and few staff into advantages through a change in mindset. Now is the time to reflect on this, and I sincerely hope for that.

Toshihiko Tabuchi’s book “New TV Theory in the Chaotic Era” (Poplar New Book 252) was released in January.
  • Text Toshihiko Tabuchi

    Professor of Visual Arts at J. F. Oberlin University. Born in Hyogo Prefecture in 1964. After graduating from the Faculty of Law at Keio University, he joined TV Tokyo. He has produced documentaries on unexplored regions of the world and has visited more than 100 countries. On the other hand, he has also been actively involved in the production of social documentaries, tackling difficult issues such as the "United Red Army," "Elderly First Offenders," and "Stalking Perpetrators. He has also produced numerous drama productions. He retired from TV Tokyo in March 2011. His books include "New TV Theory in an Age of Chaos," "Victory Learning from the Weak: The Secret of TV TOKYO's 'Reverse Thinking' to Turn Disadvantageous Conditions into Strength," "Developmental Disabilities and Juvenile Crime," "Stalking Assailants: Please Run Away from Me," and "Learning from Unexplored Places: The Shape of Happiness. He is a regular member of the Japan Writer's Association, a regular member of the Japanese Society of Imaging Arts and Sciences, a regular member of the Society of Arts and Sciences, and a regular member of the Japanese Food Service Society. He founded 35 Produce Inc., which disseminates a variety of information through video.

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