NHK Touts Partner Potential in Factual & Strong Drama Slate

Oct 12th, 2023

With a string of successful doc titles to its credit, NHK has positioned itself as a strong co-production partner for high-end factual. It has amassed an extensive network of partner broadcasters and production companies around the world. “This network has given us a wealth of international co-production experience over many years,” says Takeshi Shibasaki, head of co-production. “Our list of programs covers diverse genres, including nature, science, history, education and current affairs. With our co-production experience, we will continue to develop high-end programs and share the merits of factual content with our partners around the world.”

Its strengths as a co-pro partner lie in its in-house creative power, innovative technology development and vast amount of archive material. Indeed, NHK and NHK’s affiliated production companies have their own production functions. “The in-house productions are as diverse as news and entertainment, with many experienced producers, directors and engineers,” Shibasaki says. “Such in-house creative power is beneficial for the international development and co-productions.”

Also, NHK has an R&D department specializing in broadcasting technology. It develops cutting-edge cameras equipped with 4K/8K, high sensitivity, high speed and VR technologies. “Such innovation has expanded our visual expression and production methods by enabling us to shoot in harsh environments, such as space and the deep sea,” says Shibasaki.

In 2025, NHK will celebrate the 100th anniversary of broadcasting in Japan. “We have a long list of accomplishments and a huge amount of archival footage: 1 million programs, 9 million news reports and 110,000 reels of film,” Shibasaki says. “The archival footage includes valuable images from Japan and the rest of the world (especially Asian countries). One of our intentions for future international productions is to utilize our archival materials to develop new stories for global audiences.”

Amazing Dinoworld 2

Among its latest factual co-productions, NHK partnered with Bonne Pioche, Curiosity and Autentic on Amazing Dinoworld 2, a journey back to primeval Earth to get a glimpse of another “dinoworld” in the southern hemisphere. “Based on the latest scientific research, Amazing Dinoworld 2 depicts the super-giant dinosaurs, strange-shaped carnivorous dinosaurs and dinosaurs that survived a giant meteorite impact in the southern hemisphere,” Shibasaki says. “In addition to TV programs, together with our partners, we will develop AR, dome theater shows, exhibitions and other multiplatform content.”

Deep Ocean: Red Sea is a co-production with ZDF and ARTE and in collaboration with the National Center for Wildlife of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and OceanX Media. In it, the crew dives to film the great depths with 8K UHD cameras specially fitted out for the expeditions. “For this new episode, we conducted a five-month survey of the deep waters of the Middle East and the Red Sea,” Shibasaki explains. “This is the world’s first filming expedition to the Red Sea.”

Alongside top-flight factual, NHK Enterprises is bringing a bevy of NHK dramas to the marketplace. Highlights for MIPCOM include the large-scale historical drama Ooku: The Inner Chambers, a dramatization of a hit comic that depicts the Ooku harem system in the Edo period (1603 to 1868) with the roles of men and women reversed. “The story of the 265-year rule of the gender-role-reversed Tokugawa shogunate is told on a grand scale with great acting by a star-studded cast and exquisite visuals,” says Afumi Watanabe, senior manager in the content development department at NHK Enterprises.

The flagship year-long Taiga period drama Dear Radiance will start in January 2024. The new series depicts the life of female author Murasaki Shikibu, who wrote the epic novel The Tale of Genji over 1,000 years ago.

NHK Enterprises is also introducing the two-part crime mystery Deaf Voice: A Sign-Language Interpreter in Court, to be broadcast in December. The protagonist is a child of deaf adults and is struggling to find a way through the difficulties of life. He becomes a court sign-language interpreter, and this new life leads him to a murder case and, eventually, a new destiny.

“These dramas were produced with an eye on issues that are universally relevant in society (for example, diversity and hardships), so they are sure to resonate with international viewers,” Watanabe says. “Ooku: The Inner Chambers is historical fiction, but at the same time, it explores modern themes such as gender, power and disease while also addressing ever-relevant issues such as the desire for peace, safety and dependable relationships—and offers inspiration to people going through hard times today.”

Further highlights include the documentaries Ghastly Corner of Hell: Recordings from the Battle of Okinawa, which reconstructs one of the bloodiest battles in the Pacific during WWII through newly discovered recordings of soldiers, and The Devil’s Gorge: Mapping No Man’s Land in the Himalayas, about explorers who venture into a deep gorge in the Himalayas where no person has ever been. For drama, there are second seasons of the popular series The Honest Realtor, a comedy starring Yamashita Tomohisa about a real estate agent who can’t tell a lie, and She Loves to Cook, and She Loves to Eat, which tells of a quiet romance between two women who bond over a meal.

“As 2025 marks the 100th anniversary of broadcasting in Japan, NHK is planning to develop ambitious projects that will show viewers the merits of broadcasting and content and look ahead to the future of content creation,” Watanabe says.

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