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,llg overtece ofOriginally conceived November 1, 1957, TVAsahi began operations under the name NipponEducational Television Co., Ltd., on February 11959. In the forty intervening years, this smaeducational broadcaster has become one of themain content providers in Japan, reachin97% of Japanese households. With a corporaobjective of becoming Japan’s “top totalcontent provider,” TV Asahi faces a myriadopportunities at the dawn of digitalconvergence. With the recent insurgendigital “pay-per-view” broadcast models, TVAsahi has radically restructured its information content, providing “entertainment-only”broadcasts during the late evenings and seeking high-profile and –return investments.Established in 1982, TV Asahi Theatrical Productions was the sacred cow of TV Asahi’s numbertwo man, Hidedata Nishimura. Spawned by his fondness of western-style musicals and a hunchthat this format would prove popular to the Japanese, TV Asahi Theatrical Productions (TP) wasshared the mandate of its parent division, the Special Events Division (SED), of enhancing TVAsahi’s image through event sponsorship. The SED had engaged in such diverse activities asmedia content publishing, art exhibitions, and popular music shows, such as the mega rockfestival, Summer Sonic 2000, featuring over 30 rock and pop performers.Through the strong leadership and networking of TP’s New York Vice President, Kenji Sudo, TVAsahi brought such Tony® Award-winning Broadway musicals as “Dreamgirls” and “Guys andDolls” to Japan. With 1995 profits of $1.5 million on revenues of $15 million, TP was a minorplayer in the TV Asahi Group, which realized net sales of over ¥225 billion in 2001 ($1.7 billionUS).
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Due to Japanese mandatory retirement regulations, Nishimuraleft the company in 1996, leaving Kenji without a strongconfederate on the “inside” in the parent company. Sudo hadbeen living in the US for 30 years and worked in TV Asahi’s NewYork location for 20. It was clear that his operations weredistinct and alienated from headquarters in Japan. In fact, hisonly connection to head office was to have his musicalcontracts vetted. It was already apparent that withoutNishimura’s strong push, TP was in danger of losing financialsupport; Kenji’s Japan counterpart, Yasu Kata, facedmandatory retirement and the parent had no plans to replacehim.By this time, Kenji had developed strong contacts in the close-knit theatrical circles and hadeven been inducted as a voting member for the Tony® Awards. TV Asahi executives seemednot to share Nishimura’s fondness for western musicals and did not understand western show-business. While Disney Corporation continued to invest heavily in Broadway theatres and otherJapanese broadcasters ramped up their theatrical involvement, it seemed imminent thatKenji’s efforts and accomplishments would fall to the wayside. Clearly, TV Asahi would have tomake a strategic decision about the future of its TP unit.