With a few exceptions, cable television launched as a substitute media of terrestrial television in areas where terrestrial broadcasting signals were weak. Cable television was called CATV as an abbreviation of Common Antenna Television or Community Antenna Television and recognized as a “local media” at that time. Since then, against the background of the worldwide trend of deregulation in the 1980s and the 1990s, Multiple System Operators has sprung up all over the world, and it has begun to offer a diversity of services including multi-channel service and Internet access service. After experiencing such market change and being subject to stiff market competition, cable television operators tended to relinquish their social role as a local media and changed their business direction to a more profitable one.
Japan, however, can be treated as one of the few exceptional cases. Although Japan went through the same market change mentioned above, cable television operators have always been considered themselves as local media, and yet succeeded to maintain its position as the most powerful player in the pay-TV market. Here, a simple question arises: Why were/are Japanese cable television operators able to survive the market while providing local-oriented service which is considered to be quite unprofitable?
In the search for answers to the research question above, this study conducted an international comparison analysis by adapting business-government relationship approach as a research framework. The comparison objects are cable television operators in Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan. While Japanese operators were always local-oriented, South Korean and Taiwanese operators launched as a local media but show less appetite to provide local-oriented service these days. Necessary data were collected through bibliographic survey and interview surveys.
The result of the analysis brought out that the diversity of the survival strategy of cable television operators reflects the difference in business-government relationship in each market. Especially, business-government interface on the financial front, being typified as government support measures and/or business-government initiatives, gives direct influence on feasibility and viability of the business direction of cable television operators. While cable television operators in South Korea and Taiwan gave up to provide local-oriented service when the business-government relationship got tenuous, cable television operators in Japan, who continuously had an extraordinarily close relationship with the local government, were able to survive the market as a local media down to this day. As of March 2016, 81 percent of Japanese cable television operators are receiving investments from the local government.
However, although Cable television operators in Japan today are enjoying the leading position in the pay-TV market share, they are also standing at a crossroad when it comes to surviving the market as local media. This is because the local governments are facing financial difficulties in recent years. To gain financial independence has appeared as the prime task for Japanese cable television operators. I propose that to join the Cable Platform launched by the Japan Cable and Telecommunications Association in 2013 and to improve their mobile strategy may expand the possibility of their survival.