Analysis of Premier League TV Coverage in Japan

EPL logoEditor’s note: Today’s guest column is written by Tokyo Toffeeman regarding the current state of Premier League TV coverage in Japan. Enjoy.

By Tokyo Toffeeman

I had to laugh a few weeks ago when listening online to a Radio Five Live discussion on the proposed 39th game issue. The presenter casually commented “So you’d have say, a Man City v Reading in Yokohama.”

Well hold on, no you wouldn’t. Ever.

The ‘England Premier League’ as it’s known here only exists in people’s minds when the top few ‘brand name’ clubs are involved. For blatant proof of this you only have to look at television coverage in Japan. Two different broadcasters show BPL games (we won’t go into the fact that they couldn’t even be bothered to conclude negotiations with rights holders Sportfive until they’d missed the initial weeks of the season).

J Sports on cable/satellite show four or five matches per weekend, usually live but sometimes on tape delay when other events such as Six Nations rugby interfere and take up their channels. Invariably Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are featured.

NHK BS-sat show three games a week (one live), these are always the same ones that J Sports show ie. the fixtures of the so-called Big Three.

A couple of weeks ago, the Chelsea versus Liverpool feast of football at the Bridge was broadcast live simultaneously on J sports & NHK, wee hours Monday morning.

I guess those of you in America will be surprised by this as you are used to the way FSC and Setanta carve up the EPL games between them so virtually all bases are covered. Common sense. The viewers get to see tons of games.

You may be equally surprised by these comments made to me in an email by Phil Lines, Head of International Broadcasting and Media Operations at the PL and member of Richard Scudamore’s working party to force through plans for the 39th game no less.

“I know NHK have rights to one live match per week but am surprised that this is a match also shown live on JSports as they have a 1st choice – 2nd choice selection system to decide what each shows. I can’t think why they would select the same matches.”

“Between them they have the right to show all matches live.”

So even the people back home who run the show don’t realise the obvious, that there is only demand out here for the ‘brand’ glamour clubs. Or for clubs whose teams (or benches) include Japanese born players of course.

In case you were wondering, I personally refuse to pay NHK the national television licence fee(s). I also gave up long ago trying to reason with the clueless tv companies who treat me as if I’m the ignoramus (supply your own anti-Everton joke). This is essentially a non-football country where the draw for the 2002 Japorea World Cup was not even televised, let alone the afternoon kick-offs (even those of co-hosts South Korea!) in the tournament proper. Scudamore needs to find somewhere warmer in more senses than one for his January Birmingham v Wigan money-spinner. Hold on, how
old will Becks be in 2011?

2 thoughts on “Analysis of Premier League TV Coverage in Japan”

  1. Interesting article, TT. Amazing that you say the Japanese didn’t even broadcast the World Cup draw live. Seems they can either take their football or leave it – would that be right?

    What about the J-League – are they committed to that somewhat more?

  2. Yes, they are North Koreans in disguise so only get really worked up when the Japan national team plays in a big tournament/qualifier and the whole thing becomes a huge ‘event’ – club football is not that big (see their record in Asia’s CL), especially since all the prize foreigners left the J League in the late 90s.

    Another example that comes to mind, there was absolutely no build-up on tv to Japorea ’02, the main NHK news just days from the start would merely show scenes of drills in which the police fought back against marauding Caucasian fans outside grounds or else feature interviews with Sapporo bar owners asking them if they were ‘prepared’ for the invasion of English hoolies prior to the Argentina group match and a debate about floating prisons for them off the Hokkaido coast. Sickening.

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