'Japanese Game Show' companies reunite

A. Smith & Co., Taiyo Kikaku to produce, develop content

They not only survived a Japanese game show together, they're going to collaborate on more of them.

U.S.-based A. Smith & Co. and Japan's Taiyo Kikaku Co. are joining forces to develop, produce and distribute content for television and other media that will be adapted and expanded to audiences in new marketplaces.

The venture harnesses the success both producing companies experienced through their initial collaboration, ABC's "I Survived a Japanese Game Show."

While partnerships between U.S. and European TV producers are commonplace, those between the U.S. and Japan are rare as programming tastes tend to be dissimilar. Relationships between producers -- as opposed to producer-broadcaster tie-ups -- are even rarer.

It's unclear if any money changed hands in what A. Smith's eponymous founder Arthur Smith said was "a complicated, multifaceted arrangement," but he did say that the Taiyo Kikaku folks are "can-do people like us" and that the cultures "bonded" over the game show they worked on.

"The worlds of programming in different territories are merging, and having spent time working in Japan we realized that Taiyo is one of the most creative and progressive companies there," Smith told THR.

As part of the alliance, A. Smith & Co. will adapt Taiyo Kikaku formats in the U.S. and other regions; in return, Taiyo Kikaku will convert A. Smith's formats to fit into Japan and other Asian territories.

In addition to expanding their respective slates, the partners will tap their creative resources and expertise to collaborate on shows that they will jointly develop and co-produce.

In fact, Smith said, the partners spent Monday morning in Los Angeles sifting through "some 75 ideas for projects" that they might develop jointly.

Under the terms of the co-venture, both companies will also develop and distribute properties and formats created by third parties.

Taiyo Kikaku will open an L.A. office and has hired Satoshi Akutsu to manage its new alliance with A. Smith & Co. This office also will provide support for global expansion of its core production business.

Taiyo Kikaku president Hirohisa Sugizaki told THR that Akutsu will be "back and forth" between Japan and Los Angeles often to make the partnership work.

Akutsu has worked with Japanese pubcaster NHK, animation producer Madhouse, the satcaster Sky and DVD distributor Geneon Universal.

A. Smith & Co. co-founder Kent Weed said that a formal venture with Taiyo Kikaku provides "an incredible platform to develop and deploy dynamic programming to audiences in new markets both here and abroad."

Sugizaki added: "The business environment keeps changing every day with the deployment of digital broadcasting, and by working with A. Smith, we have an opportunity to expand into broader media and new media channels."

"I Survived a Japanese Game Show" for ABC won the reality programming Golden Rose during the 49th Rose d'Or Festival in Switzerland.

Shot solely in Japan, the show follows 10 unsuspecting westerners who traveled to Tokyo to compete in Japanese game shows while immersing themselves in cultural excursions and living together in a Japanese house.

A. Smith & Co.'s current slate includes the Emmy-nominated "Hell's Kitchen," "Kitchen Nightmares," "Conspiracy Theory" and "America's Worst Driver."    

With 44 years in the industry, Taiyo Kikaku is one of the biggest commercial production companies in Japan.