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FOCUS: TV stations enjoying high ratings for World Cup.

TOKYO, June 10 Kyodo

Japanese TV stations are enjoying high audience ratings for broadcasts of World Cup soccer games with spot commercial prices soaring, although many advertisers are wondering whether their commercials will be effective in terms of amount of money spent.

In the second half of a match between world champion France and Senegal at Seoul World Cup Stadium on May 31, the audience rating in the Kanto area in eastern Japan came in at 35.9%. France suffered a stunning defeat in the match, losing 1-0.

The ratings of many matches have since reached more than 20%, compared with the 10% level usually achieved by popular evening TV dramas.

Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) achieved a 58.8% audience rating for the second half of a match between Japan and Belgium at Saitama Stadium 2002 near Tokyo on June 4. Japan drew 2-2 with its opponent.

For a match on Sunday between Japan and Russia in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, the audience rating reached 66.1% in the Kanto region, the second-highest figure in the history of Japanese sports broadcasting. The highest was a 66.8% rating for the final of the women's volleyball tournament when Japan beat the Soviet Union at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964.

Audience ratings are attracting attention because they are a yardstick by which to gauge the public's interest, but the story was somewhat different in Japan until about 10 years ago.

''Originally, audience ratings were used for data within the advertising industry, and until 10 years ago, the broadcast industry had been largely muted in its publicity,'' said Ken Asahara, chief of the publicity section at Video Research Co., the country's sole such research company, based in Tokyo.

But now, an audience rating can amount to an ''article of sales'' in and of itself for broadcasting companies, not only in terms of numbers but also for publicity.

The number of households which see a commercial aired during a certain slot can be estimated by an audience rating. In the Kanto region, a rating of 1% means about 158,000 households have seen the commercial. If the rating is 60%, 9.48 million households have seen the commercial.

For advertisers, the audience rating is essential to forming a commercial budget. The Japan Advertising Agencies Association annually compiles a list of per-commercial fees according to broadcasting stations and time slots. Based on the list, advertisers ask broadcasters to air a certain number of commercials.

Industry sources say that in the case of a 15-second commercial aired between programs, advertisers usually ask broadcasters to air ''3,000% worth of the audience rating.''

This means that if an audience rating of 30% is expected during a certain slot, the commercial will be broadcast 100 times, and if a 10% rating is expected, the number will be 300, with key stations in Tokyo charging 50,000-100,000 yen per percent, the sources said.

TV stations' ad-related revenues continue to be sluggish due to the influence from last year's terrorist attacks on the United States and the outbreak of mad cow disease in Japan. Therefore, each broadcasting station has been pinning a great deal of hope on the World Cup as an opportunity to expand earnings, the industry sources said.

Still, Tsuguya Takeuchi, an executive director at Fuji Television Network Inc., said, ''Advertisers are wondering how much they should in fact spend for their commercials during the World Cup in giving due consideration to costs and effects, and we are still uncertain how much will be spent during the games.''
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Publication:Japan Weekly Monitor
Date:Jun 17, 2002
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