Hulu in Japan: Adds HBO and Expands Device Footprint

Hulu has inked a multi-year agreement with HBO to offer popular shows such as “Sex and The City” and “The Sopranos” to subscribers in Japan – its first international market outside of America.

Less than a year since the service launched in Japan (September 2011), the amount of content available to Japanese subscribers increased by more than 300 percent.

“There are now more than 800 films and nearly 6,900 TV show episodes from 24 content providers,” Johannes Larcher, Hulu’s SVP of International, said in a company blog post.

In addition to American TV programming, Hulu has also secured content partnerships with more than 10 Japanese and Korean firms to offer anime series, TV shows, and films, including a partnership with local broadcaster TV Tokyo.

While the cable and satellite companies in Japan fail to penetrate a large share of the country’s 48 million TV households, major private for profit broadcasters like Fuji TV, Tokyo Broadcast System, Nippon TV, TV Asahi, and TV Tokyo as well as national broadcaster NHK continue to dominate the TV landscape.

According to Jeff Lippold, digital strategy director at Euro RSCG Tokyo, TV is still the most popular entertainment medium in Japan.

He pointed out that YouTube has become the third largest website in the country, and largely because viewers go there to watch reruns of TV shows from the previous night, downloaded against the will of local TV stations.

Because Japanese users enjoy spending time with short-form content on the Internet and major TV players have not taken advantage of the medium, brands have the opportunity to step in and compete for users’ time, he said.

Lippold recommends tapping niche mobile content media platforms such as Hulu to explore platform specific ad opportunities or content integration.

However, Hulu does not currently offer advertising in Japan.

But it is worth noting that Hulu has a substantial device footprint in the market. There are more than 29 million Hulu-enabled devices such as Sony TV, Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii in its line-up of an aggressive expansion to more devices for the rest of the year.

The Hulu team based out of Roppongi, Tokyo in Japan is 19-member strong, headed by managing director, Buddy Marini.

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