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Well, Finally

August 11th, 2011

Hulu plans on a launch in Japan later this year. There is also mention of Netflix planning a launch in 43 countries at some indeterminate time, which echoes this report from March about it hiring someone to set things up in Japan and Korea.

Currently, there are postal rental services in Japan, but they are more expensive than shop rentals and only offer set numbers of rentals per month (usually 4 or 8). Nothing streaming, or even rotating rental schemes like Netflix’s original postal setup. Certainly nothing reasonable in terms of cost.

So, Hulu and/or Netflix in Japan sounds great–if it’s done well. Which is the sticking point. I expect it may be crippled in some way, either by the existing businesses or license holders in Japan lobbying to restrict them in some vital way, or the imports getting greedy and making it expensive simply because they can. Best-case scenario: the newcomers mirror the American service, do well, and get even better copycats here. We’ll see.

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  1. Jim
    August 11th, 2011 at 09:59 | #1

    Which is why I use Netflix in the US via a VPN router. I also have a slingbox HD which doesn’t require the VPN. There is always a way. However, we do have to use Tsutaya if my wife wants to watch something with Japanese subtitles and it’s not available elsewhere. That’s 980 yen a month for 4 discs IIRC. And you are right, the streaming prices are way too high.

  2. Luis
    August 11th, 2011 at 10:20 | #2

    Yeah, the Japanese subs are the key point. I want media that Sachi and I can both watch. Rental stores are OK, but it takes forever to find something, the videos are usually very poorly arranged, it takes forever to read the titles in Japanese and process them, and the selection of titles is usually bad.

    Having an online source I could browse through and search with virtually unlimited selection and then stream straight to the TV, for a reasonable price, would be very nice. Alas, we just signed up for cable TV and they snagged us with the “avoid massive artificial setup charges by signing a 2-year contract” bullshit. May be just as well, it might take another 2 years before Hulu/Netflix get settled down here anyway.

  3. Troy
    August 11th, 2011 at 12:58 | #3

    ISTM postage would kill netflix’s business model, as far as physical discs goes.

    Back in 2007-2009 I was going through 6 discs a week for ~$20/mo, LOL.

    Not that I was copying them onto DVD-Rs, but if I had been doing that, I’d now have 4 album cases of DVDs to watch if & when I get back to Japan.

    Boy, having viable streaming options instead of all those DVDs would make that a bad investment in blank media and time I guess.

    I just remember how life SUCKED 1992-1995 for me in Tokyo. Some co-worker at the school that can not be named gave me a tape of Seinfeld episodes. They were like manna. Gah.

    With the post-ISDN internet, things don’t have to suck like that I guess. But if things go well for me I plan to be up in the hills somewhere far from FiOS, so mebbe all those DVDs (that I didn’t burn) will have proved to be a good investment.

  4. Luis
    August 11th, 2011 at 13:07 | #4

    You think the early 90’s were bad? Try the late 80’s. I remember when there was no satellite (that started maybe 1987 or ’88), no cable, and only a few bilingual movies on per week. And most of them were crappy. At the risk of sounding like a Yorkshireman, we got stuff like “Death Wish 3” and were grateful for it. The video shops were bad, but then I lived in Toyama. International calls were prohibitively expensive (something like a few bucks per minute); I remember having the system where I dialed the intl. operator and asked to call collect to my folks’ dog or cat, which was the signal for them that I wanted to talk so they should call me back as the rates from the US were much better. No Internet, no Amazon, no Costco, nothin’.

    It was, like, we had to live in Japan.

  5. August 11th, 2011 at 22:50 | #5

    The Hulu announcement took pretty much everyone by surprise as we had heard NOTHING about them looking to expand internationally. Add in the fact they are currently looking for a buyer, and it was that much more of a shock.

    The Netflix situation is that the 43 countries for this year are all Southern and Latin America countries. We did hear recently about them signing a deal with Lionsgate UK making us all think that UK/Europe is next. As you mentioned, however, they put out that add a few months ago looking for people fluent in Japanese and Korean.

    My thinking is Hulu saw where Netflix was heading, they know Japan is coming, so they got there first so they can take the lead in at least one region.

    We’ll have to see how this plays out.

  6. Jim
    September 3rd, 2011 at 07:41 | #6

    Hulu released 9/1 – 1480 yen monthly – They are still adding content so it’s pretty sparse right now.

  7. Luis
    September 3rd, 2011 at 08:17 | #7

    Indeed, there it is! And it already looks better than the cable deal we have!! I’ll have to look more closely at the details–The Big Bang Theory, for example, is still only in Japanese, no English–if too many shows are like that, it could be a problem. But the selection, though slim, is already somewhat better than the usual cable selection, plus there’s no schedule to be a slave to.


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