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Japan: Four Companies Apply for DBS HD Licenses

The Communications Ministry of Japan has received applications from four companies to launch digital HD services via satellite. (You'll recall that Japan invented HD in the analog realm more than two decades ago with its Hi-Vision technology). According to published reports, the digital applicants are trading house and Mitsui & Co. ,Nippon BS Broadcasting, movie channel operator Star Channel, and World Independent Networks Japan, which up until now has primarily been a music programmer.

The government plans to permit the creation of only two HD stations in 2006-07. Mitsui plans to set up a wholly owned subsidiary to offer Disney animated, music, drama and home shopping beginning in December 2007. Various Japanese media report the designated licensees will use spectrum now being used for analog HD services by public broadcaster NHK.

The number of Japanese households "with access" to terrestrial digital HD reportedly topped 10 million last month, prompting some expectation that HD services eventually could become an attractive medium for advertisers. But HD terrestrial broadcasters in Japan are currently struggling with low ratings in the face of competition from DBS and IPTV providers.