Analog Broadcasting Ends in Japan Except in Disaster-Affected Areas

New satellite channels offering free content on bandwidth freed by digital switch.

TOKYO – Japan became the first Asian nation to complete the switchover to digital TV on Sunday when it ended analog broadcasting, while competition is heating up between the new satellite channels that will be using the freed bandwith.  

Analogue broadcasts in the region devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, will continue until March 2012.

The president of public broadcaster NHK, Masayuki Matsumoto, and the president of the National Association of Commercial Broadcasters in Japan, Michisada Hirose, gave a joint press conference about the switch, in Tokyo over the weekend.

“As a public broadcaster with a mission of delivering its services throughout Japan, NHK has invested about JPY 400 billion [$5.1bn] to implement necessary measures, including the construction of relay stations,” said Matsumoto.

The newly-available bandwith being freed up by the end of analog broadcasts, will be used by 11 new satellite channels will launch this October, doubling the current total.

These will include offerings from Wowow, Fox International Japan and Sky Perfect TV (Sky Perfect JSAT Corp) that are to offer free content, at least for the first year.

Wowow, which will increase its channels from one to three in October, will make some of its weekday programming available free.

Fox bs238 - a new Japanese channel from Rupert Murdoch's troubled News Corp – will be funded by advertising and begin charging 300 yen ($3.80) for some pay-per-view content in its second year.

Sky Perfect is also set to offer free content on its new satellite channel.

Other companies launching new satellite channels are reportedly unhappy about the free content being offered by their competitors.