Japanese animators look abroad as home market ages; The animation market was worth about $14 billion in 2011, of which $2.7 billion was from the overseas market

Japanese animators look abroad as home market ages

Kwanchai Rungfapaisarn
The Nation July 23, 2013 1:00 am

Hiromichi Masuda, right, chairman of the database working group of the Association of Japanese Animations, and Panida Dheva-aksorn, left, managing director of Byte In A Cup, join the signing ceremony yesterday for Video Market Corporation

Thailand’s byte in a cup gets foot in door with licensing deal for “The Salads” Faced with a rapidly greying society at home, Japan’s animation industry has taken a dramatic turn to exports, especially to emerging markets such as Brazil, Chile, Columbia and some African nations. “Our strategy is to increase revenue for Japanese animations via market expansion to new foreign countries,” said Hiromichi Masuda, chairman of the database working group at the Association of Japanese Animations. In Japan, animation series on television have been gradually losing popularity because of the fall in births and rise in the elderly population. About 20 per cent of the population there is over 60. The animation market was worth about 1.4 trillion yen (Bt430 billion) in 2011, of which 270 billion yen was from the overseas market. About 220 titles of Japanese animations were produced last year, particularly for TV series and films. The animation industry dropped by 10 per cent a year on average from 2006-11 because of the bubble bursting in the economy. However, the industry started to recover in 2011 by about 3 per cent.

Of about 400 animation producers, 50 are key players. “The strength of Japanese animations is that they have been developed from comic books, so such ‘manga’ animations are really diversified and can be watched by both kids and adults,” Masuda said. 

One of the biggest challenges for Japanese animations is the trend for viewers to watch them on websites such as YouTube. 

“What we’re trying to do is make our animations air quicker on all media channels, such as television, around the world,” he said. 

All animation series should be broadcast in other key markets at the same time as in Japan, he said.

Thailand is one of the top five markets for Japanese animations, after South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and France.

About 95 per cent of the animations in Japan are locally produced and only 5 per cent imported, mainly from the US. Only 10 titles are imported by Japan each year and most of them are films. This reflects the nationalism and tastes of the Japanese, who love to watch locally made cartoons.

Thailand has a wide range of production capability, including houses with world-class standards, such as Monk and Byte In A Cup, Masuda noted. 

“I’m quite impressed by the capability of Thai animation producers. However, the most significant point of the animation industry in Thailand is that it lacks good public relations to be recognised by consumers around the world,” he said. 

Byte In A Cup, the creator and copyright owner of “The Salads”, has received huge attention from the international animation community, particularly from Japan, after launching the show to great acclaim in Thailand. 

To enhance its distribution and business development, Byte In A Cup has appointed a licensing agent to manage its copyrights in Japan, marking yet another success for Thai animation in the global market.

Panida Dheva-aksorn, managing director of Byte In A Cup, said “The Salads” was the first Thai animation whose licence is managed by Video Market Corporation, a world-class licensing agent in Japan. 

This is to increase the animation’s popularity in the Japanese market, which is the centre of the world’s animation-licensing business. Today, animations and cartoons are deeply rooted in Japanese culture. For Japan to welcome a foreign animation, particularly from another Asian country, as it did with “The Salads” is unprecedented. 

Video Market Corp will oversee the licensing of “The Salads” in Japan for broadcast in cinemas, on television and online, as well as merchandising. The licensing agent launched marketing activities for “The Salads” at the beginning of this month.

“We’ll gradually expand licensing as we focus on our image and long-term marketing,” Panida said. “Finding licensing experts who understand the character business is crucial – those who can manage the licence based on the response from consumers in their market and plan appropriate business development strategies in accordance with their locality. 

“In Asia, we start with Japan. Then we’ll expand to other countries, including South Korea, [mainland] China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia, and other regions. We’re currently in talks with licensing agents. Once we have a stronghold in Asia, our next step is to penetrate new markets in other regions across the world.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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