The Amazing Power of Uma-musume Money Made Free Live World Cup Soccer Broadcasts Possible | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Amazing Power of Uma-musume Money Made Free Live World Cup Soccer Broadcasts Possible

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The Korean version of Uma Musume is expected to be very popular in Korea. Some reports say that the number of pre-registered users exceeded 1 million in one week (photo: Kyodo News).Japan’s national soccer team has been selected to participate in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar from November 21-December 18, the first tournament to be held in the Middle East. The stamina of Japanese TV stations could not keep up with the skyrocketing broadcasting rights fees, and free live broadcasts of all 64 matches were considered hopeless. The situation was saved by the participation of the Internet TV station ABEMA.

ABEMA agreed with the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to distribute official Internet programs from various angles (official Internet broadcaster) and contributed greatly to the realization of free live coverage of the Qatar games. Susumu Fujita (48), a representative of AbemaTV Inc. and general producer of ABEMA, posted on his Twitter account, “This will be the biggest investment ever for Abema,” and behind the huge purchase was the existence of that mega-hit game last year.


 He added, “I can’t get my head around Abema for the World Cup broadcast rights this time around. Frankly, I take my hat off to them!”

A veteran terrestrial TV station official dared to express his gratitude to Internet TV, which is now in its sixth year of operation. Japanese TV stations were challenged by the skyrocketing cost of broadcasting rights for the free domestic broadcast of the World Cup tournament in Qatar, which will start this November. All negotiations had reached an impasse, and free live broadcasts had been hopeless. But with the participation of ABEMA, free live broadcasts of all 64 matches of the Qatar tournament have become possible.

The broadcasting rights fee offered to Japan for the 1998 tournament in France, in which the Japanese national team qualified for the World Cup for the first time, was 550 million yen. In the 2002 Japan-Korea tournament, however, the fee jumped all the way up to 18.5 billion yen.

“Pay-TV broadcasters, which have become the mainstream in European soccer, began to raise their hands to purchase the World Cup broadcasting rights, and the price went into a bubble,” said a veteran broadcaster.

FIFA offered to raise the broadcasting rights fee for Japan by billions of yen for subsequent World Cups. On the Japanese side, NHK and commercial broadcasters formed an organization called the Japan Consortium (JC) to compete with each other, and in previous World Cups, each broadcaster has collected broadcasting rights fees. The Japanese side has allocated the broadcast rights to Japan’s games and jointly produced programs.

The Japanese TV industry is no longer in a situation where it is left to correct the amount offered by FIFA for the World Cup in Qatar. In particular, commercial broadcasters have seen a sharp decline in sponsorship income over the past two years due to the Corona virus. Negotiations for broadcasting rights with terrestrial broadcasters were conducted in parallel with the scenes of the final Asian qualifying round for the World Cup that began last September. They were all unsuccessful, and with no prospect of collecting the estimated 35 billion yen, FIFA offered Japan the Qatar tournament. Free broadcasts of the World Cup in Japan have become virtually impossible.


ABEMA, an Internet TV station that has been in operation for six years and is making great strides, was the obvious choice.

Tomohisa Nomura, executive officer in charge of FIFA World Cup 2022 at ABEMA, looks back.

 The World Cup broadcast rights came to Mr. Susumu Fujita, the general producer of ABEMA. I don’t think there were several exchanges made in making the internal decision. 

Junya Ito, who scored goals in four consecutive games in the Asian qualifying rounds and contributed greatly to Japan’s qualification for the World Cup, will become a real star when the World Cup is broadcast live (photo: AFLO).According to several TV station sources, ABEMA’s broadcasting rights fee is estimated at 20 billion yen. In the past six tournaments, the ratio of NHK vs. commercial broadcasters in broadcasting rights fees for Japan has been 6:4. The remaining 15 billion yen is calculated to have been borne by NHK at 9 billion yen and TV Asahi and Fuji TV at 6 billion yen. NTV and TBS did not raise their hands to acquire the World Cup broadcasting rights this time.

The 20 billion yen will be paid out of the company’s pocket. It is the largest investment ever made. Even if all Japanese TV stations had scrambled, they would not have been able to compete, but ABEMA was able to do so. Representative Fujita said, “We had planned to distribute the game in two years of development, but we postponed it for three years and invested a lot of money and people” (Bungeishunju, May issue), and the mobile game “Uma Musume Pretty Derby” (hereinafter referred to as “Uma Musume”) became an unprecedented mega-hit worldwide.
According to the 2021 mobile game software sales report released by the U.S. app research firm Sensor Tower, “Uma Musume” recorded approximately $965 million (¥109.6 billion) worldwide. In fact, the game has been well received in Japan as well, with users who are still hooked on the game saying things like:
I only need to do one to two hours a day to be satisfied.
I’m satisfied even if I have to pay 1,500 to 3,000 yen a month!
It’s a game system I’ve never played before.
With this mega-hit, CyberAgent’s game business increased its sales by 68.6% over the previous year, and its profits by 3.2 times. While many companies are suffering from the Corona disaster, CyberAgent’s consolidated sales for FY2021 reached a whopping 666.4 billion yen. This is where the “Uma Musume money” was born. Free live broadcasts of the World Cup, which everyone had given up on, became feasible.

The World Cup is a festival that brings the whole world together. It is a worldwide festival (Photo: Afro) 

In the past, the World Cup year has been a time of excitement, but this time is different. In addition, in the group league of this tournament, Japan was paired with Germany (ranked 12th in the world) and Spain (ranked 7th in the world). Moriyasu Japan (ranked 23rd in the world) has pledged to make the top eight at the World Cup, but it will be a thorny task.


Nomura, the executive officer of the Japan National Football Team, is in charge of the team on the field.

I think Japan’s national soccer team is still very attractive as content. 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 get this content when the station first opened, 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 are determined to make this happen.

The “Uma Musume” mega-hit has led to free live broadcasts of all 64 matches in Qatar, and it will be interesting to see how this chemical reaction will play out. The World Cup will be held in November for the first time in history, and NHK, TV Asahi, and Fuji Television will broadcast live coverage of Japan’s matches. We are sure to see a different scene here and there. Will it lead to a recovery in the popularity of soccer in Japan, a country that has been pushed to the edge of the ring? The answer to all these questions will come at the end of the year.

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