Broadband Internet and Telephony ...
The Digital Future of Japan's Cable Industry

(This page updated September 15, 2005)

Two current trends outweigh all others in cable media today: consolidation and digitalization. The latter is demanding the former, as small operators find themselves unable to justify necessary investments that would be spread over too few subscribers. Led by J:Com (Jupiter Telecommunications), the cable industry is consolidating. As operators consolidate, they achieve scale to add channels, implement PPV and VOD, and roll out additional services such as internet and telephone subscriptions. J:Com now has over 1.5 million subscribers to its cable TV service, well over 800,000 cable ISP subs, and over 850,000 cable phone subs. J:Com launched digital service during 2004. Although not releasing its subscriber numbers yet, Mediatti, a smaller MSO led by shareholder partners Olympus Capital and Libery Media International (also a partner in J:Com), has gained notice for its digitalization efforts. Mediatti has equity placements in five cable operators in the Kanto (greater Tokyo) Region, and is leading their operations. In contrast to J:Com and Mediatti who derive their strength from foreign capital, TOKAI, a regional conglomerate based in Shizuoka, is leading six cable operators. The conglomerate developed out of utility Tokai Gas, originally established in 1950. TOKAI is also known for its nationwide broadband internet development efforts using ADSL.
In addition, the Nagoya area is home to Chubu Cable Network, backed by Chubu Electric Power, and StarCat, a public operator also with a Chubu Electric affiliate as the largest shareholder. Chubu Cable merged three cable companies in Dec. 2001, and has grown the combined operation to a pay TV subscriber base of 100,000 as of Jan. 2004. StarCat has over 75,000 pay TV subs and 40,000 internet subs now.

In fact, ADSL and FTTP are competing broadband internet technologies, and threaten the erstwhile perception that cable provides an outstanding advantage over satellite with its potential for internet access. Much effort is underway to increase internet connectivity speeds via cable, and the latest plans at J:Com involve an offering at 100 Mbps shared within an MDU (condominium or apartment building). This configuration and speed more or less match FTTP.

Digitalization has lately speeded up considerably among cable operators. The current trends include the close-out on analog service by not adding any more new subscribers, the reduction in analog basic package channel counts to enable and to increase digital packages with tiering, and the transmission of DTT and digital Bsat channels.

Various services to speed up digital migration have emerged. JDS (Japan Digital Serve), for example, is delivering the digital Bsat ('BS Digital') and SkyPerfecTV Csat channels to cable operators via fiberoptic network as a direct feed into their systems. The method allows for cable operators to convert the feed to analog until their digital plant is ready. JDS is a venture with many shareholders, including private railways serving greater Tokyo, terrestrial networks, and a number of cable operators, and has created a joint venture with SCC called i-HITS to deliver any desired package of digital Csat channels to cable operators in a bundled stream (bouquet) via satellite. This headend-in-the-sky operation is facing competition from JC-HITS, operated by JSAT's wholly owned subsidiary Japan Cablecast. Another venture called Japan Cablenet supplies programming and content to cable operators digitally also. Interactivity and on-demand applications are part of the plan. Principal venture partners include Fujitsu, SECOM, Marubeni, TEPCO, and a consortium of independent cable operators.

Selected Operators and Channel Lineups

J-COM Broadband      Key Independents     Mediatti

As a means to provide a sample cross-section reference to cable operators in Japan and to see what channels are carried, the above links take you to brief descriptions and channel lineups of Japan's largest MSO J:Com, four key independent operators in several urban areas, and MSO Mediatti. The channel lineups provide links to websites of the programming networks, including English links when available.

Cable TV in Japan: Chart of Events

Top of Page      Jump to 1990     Jump to 2000

January 31Kids Station and SpaceShower TV surpass 5 million subscribers.
February 12Jupiter Telcommunications (J-COM BB) executes a 140 billion yen syndicated loan agreement with 13 financial institutions.
February 24Sumitomo Corp. sells 8% equity in Jupiter Telecommunications to Liberty Media. Libery M. becomes the largest shareholder in J-COM BB.
March 1CNNj launches as a special edition of CNNI tailored to Japan.
March 31SpaceShower TV acquires 5 million subscribers.
June 30Golf Network of Jupiter Programming Group tops 4 million subs.
July 17BB Cable TV ramps up for revenue service, and expands service area beyond the Tokyo Metro to cover Saitama and Chiba Prefectures.
August 31AXN acquires over 3 million subscribers.
October 1J Sky Sports changes name to J Sports.
November 18Disney Channel launches in Japan with J-COM BB and SkyPerfecTV carrying the programming from broadcast launch.
December 1Digital terrestrial broadcasting starts in the Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka markets.
February 28Tomen Mediacom changes company name to Mediatti Communications.
April 1Family Theater surpasses 3 million subscribers.
April 1Spaceshower Networks absorbs Channel [V] operations, and relaunches the Spaceshower Video Music Channel.
AprilJupiter Telecommunications (J-COM BB) acquires stock of @Home Japan from failed Excite@Home (U.S.).
May 1LaLa TV of Jupiter Program absorbs Home Channel, and extends service to combined subscriber base.
May 30Japan Digital Serve begins distribution of multichannel digital Csat programming for cable operators.
June 1Itscom (formerly Tokyu Cable) launches Itscom TV Premiere digital cable plan.
June 1Super Channel attains 4 million subscribers.
August 1National Geographic Channel launches in Japan.
September 30CNN International subscriber count exceeds 4 million.
October 8Tohokushinsha completes IPO.
October 31Sky A subscriber base surpasses 4 million.
November 1Sony releases Cocoon PVR, adapting technology of TiVo.
November 29Channel NECO tops 4 millions subs.
DecemberFOX surpasses 3 millions subcribers.
March 25Sony invests 10% in Tokyu Cable.
April 2Japan CableNet is launched as a broadband service provider to cable operators.
April 25usen Corporation completes its initial public offering.
June 20-22Cable TV 2001 annual convention
June 15Star Channel and Sky Movies consolidate service; Sky Movies discontinues channels and merges into Star Channel.
July 1Sports-i ESPN tops 3 million subs.
AugustKDDI and ZTV start VoIP field testing.
August 1Tokyu Cable changes name to ItsCom.
August 31GAORA tops 3 million subs.
September 1Jupiter Telecommunications changes service name to J-COM BroadBand, encompassing television, internet, and telephone services.
OctoberMSO-in-the-making Mediatti announces a series of tie-ups with Scientific-Atlanta, Convergys, and nCube as part of its digitalization plans.
OctoberGolf Network tops 3 million subs. Lala TV and Animal Planet top 1 million subs.
December 31Nikkei CNBC tops 4 million subs, the first cable-sat news channel to reach this milestone.
March 7TITUS Communications and TOKAI agree to interconnect their networks.
March 17Internet Initiative (IIJ) agrees to interconnect its internet backbone with Tokyu Cable, CTY, LCTV, Kintetsu Network, and Himawari Network.
November 1Hit Pops launches "Hit Station," a website for publicizing satellite TV programming content.
April 25Cable TV Kobe launches "Japan Media Networks," a video streaming service.
June 13Japan CableLabs (JCL) established.
June 30Sony, Tokyu Railway, and Tokyu Cable tie up to build broadband network. Sony acquires 10% ownership of Tokyu Cable.
September 1No. 1 MSO Jupiter Telecommunications (J-Com) and No. 2 MSO TITUS Communications merge. J-Com becomes the continuing company.
October 26SECOM, Tokyo Electric Power, Fujitsu, and Marubeni form venture to provide broadband services via cable TV networks.
March 30Ten cable operators in two municipalities and six Tokyo wards situated in Arakawa River basin launch "Arakawa Community Net" to interconnect their services.
July 16Six cable operators in central Tokyo establish interconnections: Tokyu Cablevision, Tokyo Cable Network, Johoku New Media, Koto Cable TV, S. Tokyo Cable TV, Cablevision Tokyo.
October 1Jupiter Telecommunications consolidates four operators into one: J-Com Tokyo becomes the continuing entity.
JulyStar Channel partners additionally with Itochu and Warner Brothers.
 Testing for internet service and digitalization on cable plant starts.
AprilJapan's first adult cable network "Fantasy Channel" launches, but gains support from just five operators. (Network folds in October 1992.)
 Application rush for urban cable licenses. For the year 44 operators gain approval, for a total 99 operators in the nation.
 The rush to launch urban cable business is on. For the year, 55 operators receive licenses and 30 begin service.
May 2CANDY becomes the first cable network to deliver programming via satellite.
 Program suppliers and cable operators prepare for satellite delivery of programming.
AprilTama Cable Network Co. launches broadcast service as the first urban cable TV system in Japan.
March 20Premium movie network Star Channel established with the participation of major Hollywood studios Universal, Paramount, MGM; and Japanese studios Toho and Shochiku. Initial servicing of cable operators consists of physical delivery of tapes with product.
MayCable TV Broadcast Act amended (establishment of rulings for retransmission consents).
AprilSumitomo Corporation begins supplying programming to cable operators, the beginning of what is known as CSN1 Movie Channel today.
MayThe MPT decides to permit cable operators to implement operations for interactive telecommunications services.

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