WOWOW Japan plots recovery after bruising 2022

Japanese pay TV broadcaster WOWOW has posted full-year financials for a bruising 2022 with its CEO admitting that it “continues to struggle in the midst of major market and lifestyle changes triggered by the coronavirus disaster”.

WOWOW Akira Tanaka

Akira Tanaka

President and CEO Akira Tanaka said the company’s financials and operating results had been hit by “the rise of video distribution services, which has intensified competition to acquire content and members”.

He said that “in particular, the battle for the rights to major sports content is fierce, and sports that WOWOW has been working on are being transferred to other services”.

Tanaka said that WOWOW had also been impacted by consolidation in the Japanese pay TV industry, with streamer U-NEXT announcing that it would absorb smaller rival Paravi in February, creating a combined streamer with around 3.7 million customers.

Other market developments cited by Tanaka included an agreement between sports streamer DAZN and Japanese e-commerce and VOD provider DMM to launch a combined offering in February, and NTT Docomo’s announcement in March that it would replace its existing dTV streaming service with a new AVOD offering under the Lemino brand, which will also have a premium tier for ¥990 a month.

NTT Docomo recently also struck an alliance with Yoshimoto Kogyo Holdings to create a new production outfit, NTT Docomo Studio & Live to produce content that would be distributed on Lemino in Japan.

WOWOW lost 121,000 net subscribers last year, an accelerating rate of loss following the 111,000 lost in 2021. WOWOW had 2.56 million customers at the end of 2022.

WOWOW posted full-year revenues of full-year revenues of ¥77.1 billion (US$549 million) for 2022, down from ¥79.7 billion. The company posted operating revenues of ¥3.2 billion, down from ¥5.3 billion for the prior year.

WOWOW now expects revenues of ¥75.4 billion for the full year this year.

Tanaka said WOWOW aimed to recover lost ground by focusing on expanding its content offering, personalizing its marketing drive and investing in new businesses. The company plans to simplify the process of signing up via its website in order to ensure that the majority of subscribers have an online membership ID that will enable WOWOW to tailor its marketing to individual subscribers.

New initiatives include the planned launch of a TVOD offering and an expansion of its on-demand content line-up.

To take the company forward, WOWOW has also made a number of key appointments recently, including that of former Paravi marketing executive Seiichi Yokoyama, who has been tasked with overseeing corporate strategy.

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