Japanese Cable TV Giant to Start Selling Electricity

With many of the country's nuclear reactors offline, J:COM plans to supply its customers with cheaper electricity, beginning with a test rollout in central Tokyo.

TOKYO – Japanese cable TV giant J:COM, also known as Jupiter Telecommunications, will add power to its cable TV, phone and broadband bundled services to apartment blocks by the end of this year, the company said Tuesday.

With only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear reactors currently online following the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant last year, power companies are raising prices for consumers, to pay for higher generating costs from fossil fuels. J:COM is planning to provide electricity to up to 10,000 customers over the next year, at 7 to 10 percent below the rates of utilities such as TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Co.), the operator of the Fukushima plant and supplier of nearly all of Tokyo’s electricity.

The electricity will be bought by J:COM from Summit Energy, a subsidiary of its largest shareholder, giant trading house Sumitomo. Some of the electricity is expected to come from solar power and private businesses which sell excess power they generate.

Sumitomo owns just over 40 percent of J:COM, with telecoms giant KDDI controlling more than 30 percent, a stake it bought from Liberty Media for $4 billion in 2010. The two companies have been looking for ways to synergize their businesses with the cable TV operator, with KDDI cooperating in providing contents for its au mobile phone customers.

J:COM, the country’s largest multi-service operator, supplies more than 3.7 million households with some combination of cable TV, internet and fixed-line phones. Last month, J:COM announced a merger with Japan Cablenet, owned by KDDI, which will give the new entity a more than 50 percent share of the cable market. 

Cable TV penetration in Japan appears to be stabilizing at just over 50 percent of households, with IPTV, other net-based services and mobile viewing platforms showing stronger growth in recent years.