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Two ways to pronounce MICO: co-productions and joint ventures.

Two Ways to Pronounce MICO: Co-productions and Joint Ventures

Like some vast electronic octopus, stretching its tentacles from Japan into the far corners of the world's films and television, MICO (Media International Corp.) is spending millions on its avowed aim of internationalizing audiovisual software.

MICO, in which NHK, Japan's public broadcast network, has a five per cent interest, is backed by 47 Japanese institutions, primarily big banks. It has paid-in capital of $51 million and authorized capital of $67 million, which by Japanese standards, is not outstanding.

Yoshio Uchida, the president of MICO (America) Inc., resides in spacious Manhattan offices, not far from the quite separate news bureau of NHK. However, NHK plays an obviously key role in the MICO operation.

Uchida is seconded in New York by Lucy Chudson, director of sales and marketing for MICO, and Elke Titus, senior V.P. of NHK Enterprises USA.

From the sound of it, the office is buzzing with plans and activities these days, relating primarily to coproduction negotiations, but also with NHK's determination to intensify its efforts in the HDTV field and in a new kind of three-dimensional computer graphics for TV commercials and promotions.

MICO has begun realizing a long-held Japanese dream, i.e. to introduce Japanese television programming on American cable. One million Japanese live in the U.S. 200,000 working in 6,800 Japanese-owned business.

"We have formed the Japan Network Group, which manages a new organization called TV Japan." "It is a joint venture between MICO and a number of Japanese banks and trading companies.

"We started TV Japan in April and we are already feeding 12 hours of Japanese programming a day," Uchida said. "It's just in the beginning stages.

TV Japan is looking for American partners, Uchida disclosed. "We are asking cable operators to carry us," the MICO executive said, adding that MICO had no intention whatever of buying a cable network, though such a purchase would be perfectly legal. (There is a 20 per cent ceiling on foreign interests in American radio and TV stations)

One of the partners being sought by MICO is ABC Video Enterprises, since NHK already has close ties with ABC News and a news exchange arrangement is in the advanced stages.

Actually, it was announced some months ago in Tokyo, but quickly denied by ABC News in New York. Since then, not only have ABC-NHK talks continued, but NHK has also been talking with European broadcasters.

"Eventually, we may want to form a worldwide CNN," Uchida said. "CNN is fine, but viewers have a right to get more than just the American point-of-view. They should also hear what the Japanese, the Soviets and the Europeans think."

NHK, with its four domestic channels, receives a three-hour news feed from New York every day. Much of the coverage is simply translated, but Japanese viewers also have a choice of a two-channel audio system.

Programming, particularly in terms of co-production, is very high on its list of priorities in the U.S., Uchida added, noting current discussions with Viacom's Perry Mason programs to be shot in Japan.

"We are discussing how we might share worldwide distribution on shows which we coproduce," Uchida said. "We might retain Japanese and Asian rights and give the rest to our partner. There are many variations possible."

Concerning American complaints that Japan was a difficult market for U.S. shows to crack, Ushida stressed that there were no barriers, other than those dictated by Japanese audience's tastes. Lucy Chudson felt that the problem was rooted in a lack of channel capacity, but added that there was a specific hesitancy to show American animation in light of the volume of Japanese animation being produced locally.

MICO is also into the theatrical field. It recently made a $50 million deal with Majestic Films International in London for the acquisition of features for the international market (but not the U.S.). Majestic's Guy East was to manage the new company, called New Communications Ltd.

With recent scandals rocking the top management of NHK, the future of this project--along with the future of NHK's vision of a worldwide TV news network -- is currently uncertain.

While coproduction is evidently on the top of his agenda in the U.S., Uchida also focuses on intensifying the impact of Japanese culture in America. "We make great programs and we want Americans to be able to see them," he said. "If they do, a lot of misunderstandings between us will disappear."
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Title Annotation:Media International Corp.
Author:Wall, O.T.
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:company profile
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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