TV Asahi Takes Animation & Formats from Japan to a Global Stage

Oct 10th, 2023

For more than 30 years, the animated kids’ IPs Doraemon and Shin chan have been pillars of TV Asahi’s worldwide distribution business—and they remain so today. The shows are currently doing particularly well in India and throughout East Asia, as well as in Spain and Italy.

“Our emerging pillar is anime titles for a youth target,” says Maiko Sumida, head of animation sales and development. A recent hit has been The Dangers in My Heart, which has sold worldwide, including in North America and Europe.


Regarding the further development of animated properties, Sumida says: “We are announcing the collaboration with Sony Pictures Networks India on the production of Obocchama-Kun at this MIPCOM. We would like to have more collaboration with international partners for the global market. The significance of the international market is invaluable, and we would like to expand our footprint outside of Japan and Asia.”

From within the animated catalog, Doraemon has been a long-running success. It celebrated its 50th brand anniversary in Japan in 2020 and will be celebrating its 30th broadcast anniversary in Spain in 2024. Sumida puts its longevity down to the “relatable stories and characters with universal charm. On the production side, the 1,000-plus episodes from the TV series and movie that come out every year (for the past 40-plus years) keep attracting new eyeballs and create the fan base.” TV Asahi is looking for partners who can join the special celebration opportunities with the 55th brand anniversary coming up in just two years.

As for scripted and non-scripted formats, TV Asahi has secured numerous option and license deals with the U.S. and South Korea as of late and is actively driving these formats to be broadcast in the respective countries.

A current highlight in the way of formats is Trick House. This all-new mind-reading game show is set in a mansion filled with distraction traps designed by the mischievous owner to surprise guests. Each guest wears a device on their wrist that measures their pulse. If the heart rate increases and reaches a certain level, an alarm goes off. The alarm can go off up to three times before the end of the game, at which point the contestant must leave. If a contestant can avoid various tricks and obstacles and reach the end before the three alarms, they can win a prize. As a twist, there is a mole among them who pretends to be a guest. They are informed in advance of the owner’s plans and know where and what tricks are hidden. If the mole is clever and survives until the end of the game, the money will not be given to any of the guests but to the mole.

“Needless to say, the human pulse is linked to feelings of fear and surprise, which cannot be controlled,” says Setsuko Yoda, head of formats sales and development. “This show uses this to its advantage: only those who keep their cool until the end can win cash prizes. People love to see someone’s surprised face, not to mention the example of a surprise party. When it is a real reaction and not a celebrity act, it is sure to be a show that draws viewers in.” Trick House began airing on NRK in Norway in September and will “travel to many regions in the future,” Yoda adds.

TV Asahi has seen solid format success with U.S. production companies as well, she notes. “TV Asahi is Japan’s most powerful entertainment production house. Filled with exciting ideas and fresh innovations, our shows are very popular in Japan, and some of them have outstanding broadcast records, but not all of these shows have traveled overseas yet.

“This is where U.S. production companies are focusing their attention, trying to produce American versions of our great shows with their twist and bring them to the U.S. market, and we are trying to market them to the rest of the world,” Yoda continues.

An example that TV Asahi is currently working on for U.S. adaptation is the long-running Neighborhood Treasures. The show takes items precious to a neighborhood, such as a funny statue or an unusual food item served at a restaurant in that city, and pits them against each other. The funniest and most unusual treasure is awarded the title of Hall of Fame. “Several other formats are waiting in line for their turn,” Yoda says.

Scripted formats from TV Asahi have also been performing well, particularly in South Korea. “South Korea’s drama production capabilities are impressive, and we intend to actively produce drama series with South Korea in the future,” says Yoda. “As a start, we have signed license and option agreements with four major Korean production companies and are moving forward to realize Korean versions of these popular TV series of ours. The premise is that Japan and Korea are geographically close and have very similar cultures and sensibilities, which makes it easier to work together.”

Series with strong female leads and dark mysteries are performing particularly well, Yoda says, “and we hope to bring these popular Japanese titles to Korean audiences as well as to audiences around the world, combining great Japanese plots with great Korean production values.”

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