Japanese Networks Partner on Streaming Service as Netflix Launch Looms

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The new service, dubbed TVer, will be ad-supported and free to viewers.

Japan's top five commercial TV networks are banding together to launch a catch-up streaming video service to extend their programming's reach online.

The service, named TVer, will debut in October — right around the time Netflix is expected to begin operating in Japan. The service was announced on Monday.

The participating networks, all based in Tokyo, are: Nippon Television Network, TV Asahi, TBS TV, TV Tokyo and Fuji Television Network.

Each network will supply TVer 10 shows weekly, and each episode will be available for seven days. TVer will carry comedies, dramas and variety shows, all of which will be ad-supported and free to viewers.

After a relatively slow start, Japan's streaming video space is becoming increasingly competitive. Earlier this month, a consortium of Japanese entertainment companies, TV networks and industry associations came together to form the Japan Contents Group, which will launch a video-on-demand service called Bonobo this fall.

Services such as Hulu, Gyao, Unext and others have been operating in Japan for some time, while the country's major mobile operators SoftBank, NTT Docomo and KDDI also all run their own online video services. In February, Netflix announced that it would join the fray with a Japan launch in the fall.