NTV axes MLB coverage

Nippon Television
Nippon Television
TOKYO (TR) – Broadcaster Nippon Television (NTV) has terminated its contract with Major League Baseball that allowed the network to show highlights of games during news segments, according to a report from entertainment news site Zakzak (Apr. 7).

NTV, which is the flagship station of the Yomiuri Giants, is now the only major broadcaster in Japan not providing highlights of MLB contests. The network will be limited to showing such content as interviews and pre-game practice.

This will leave some of Japan’s biggest stars — such as, former Yomiuri star pitcher Koji Uehara, now a member of the Baltimore Orioles, Ichiro Suzuki of the Seattle Mariners, and Hideki Matsui, also a former Giant — without coverage on one of the nation’s largest networks.

Zakzak reports that NTV announced that the decision is as a result of the ongoing recession.

Recent baseball ratings on television have not been stellar. Over the weekend, the three games between the Giants and the Hiroshima Carp attracted viewership ratings of 13.3, 12.6, and 14.4 percent. Last year, the Giants registered an average rating of 9.7 percent, the third straight year of not reaching double digits. This year’s early returns are encouraging, but not enough, implies Zazak.

An executive from NTV explains: “There will be no highlight clips of MLB games shown on our broadcasts. Under these economic conditions, this is the decision we reached after evaluating the return on investment.”

Prior to NTV’s decision, which was reached on March 3, five broadcasting companies had a contract with MLB. Fuji Television, Tokyo Broadcasting System, TV Asahi, and TV Tokyo will maintain their 3.5-billion-yen annual payment agreement that extends for five years. This contract allows the stations to show MLB highlights under the condition that a maximum of three minutes of each game will be shown each day. Broadcaster NHK has a separate contract with MLB.

NTV’s mid-term consolidated report for the fiscal year through September showed the company going into the red for the first time in 37 years. A staff member from a competitor tells Zakzak: “It is not exactly up to NTV. With revenue from advertising falling significantly, saving 700 million yen a year, if you can, is something you want to do.”

Further, NTV will only broadcast 26 Giants games this year, down 19 from last season. The network also lost out on televising games of last month’s World Baseball Classic. Entertainment site Iza reports (Mar. 14) that TV Asahi broadcast the first round and TBS the second, with the final game between Japan and Korea marking a robust rating of 40.1%.

Tsuneo Watanabe, chairman of Yomiuri media group, the parent of both the Giants and NTV, is not pleased with these recent developments. Watanabe is quoted by Zakzak: “I am frustrated that NTV did not broadcast the WBC, an event that is popular throughout the nation. I cannot stand this.” (K.N.)

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