Unpacking Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Profound Impact and Future Role at Yoshimoto Kogyo | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Unpacking Hitoshi Matsumoto’s Profound Impact and Future Role at Yoshimoto Kogyo

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A lawsuit seeking 550 million yen in damages from Bungei Shunju and the publication of a corrected article is proceeding quietly.

“Downtown” Matsumoto Hitoshi (60) has been absent from television for nearly five months. While his legal battle with Bungeishunju continues quietly, public interest has waned, and discussions about Matsumoto are less common. Matsumoto has hired a personal lawyer to handle the case, and some perceive a growing distance between him and Yoshimoto Kogyo due to the prolonged and uncertain nature of the trial. However, a Yoshimoto representative, Mr. A, asserts, “That is absolutely not the case.”


“For Yoshimoto, Matsumoto-san remains the most crucial figure now and in the future. Despite the drawn-out trial or ongoing hiatus, Matsumoto-san has made significant contributions to Yoshimoto through his ‘overseas business’.”

Last year, Yoshimoto jointly established “NTT Docomo Studio & Live” with NTT Docomo, officially beginning their entertainment business aimed at overseas markets. In addition to promoting talents abroad, they are particularly focused on ‘format business’.

While not widely recognized in Japan, ‘format business’ involves selling concepts for variety shows to overseas TV networks. Famous examples include TBS’s “SASUKE” and Fuji TV’s “Iron Chef,” which have been sold to and produced locally in foreign TV markets. How Yoshimoto intends to integrate into this business?

“Yoshimoto produced ‘Documental,’ a ‘closed room laugh together survival show,’ which is currently a major hit overseas. Local versions are being produced in approximately 20 countries including Mexico, Australia, Germany, and India. Matsumoto-san appears as the host in the Japanese version, but he is also the originator of the concept, effectively the lead and producer. Without the producer’s approval, ‘Documental’ couldn’t have been sold overseas without Matsumoto-san’s consent,” added Mr. A from earlier.

On June 7th, it was announced that “FREEZE,” produced by Yoshimoto and distributed on Amazon Prime Video, has been sold to Portugal’s largest television network. Despite his hiatus, Matsumoto commented, “I’m delighted that, following ‘Documental,’ my comedy continues to spread worldwide. I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing how it turns out.” This marks the first time Yoshimoto has released a comment from Matsumoto since his hiatus, indicating their strong determination.

“Yoshimoto reportedly earns over 1 billion yen annually from the format business of programs involving Matsumoto such as ‘Documental’,” said Mr. A. “Yoshimoto still has many programs planned and produced by Matsumoto. The name ‘HITOSHI MATSUMOTO’ is becoming a major brand in the global format business. These ‘gems’ cannot be sold without Matsumoto’s consent. Even if Matsumoto were to lose the lawsuit and become unable to work domestically, Yoshimoto cannot afford to neglect him.”

Coincidentally, on June 4th, the Kishida administration announced a new “Cool Japan Strategy” to promote content business overseas. Despite Cool Japan Organization’s significant losses, there’s a high possibility of substantial subsidies being distributed to overseas content business operators. Naturally, Yoshimoto will likely pursue these opportunities, with the ‘HITOSHI MATSUMOTO’ brand as a crucial asset they cannot afford to lose.


  • PHOTO Ippei Hara

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