Warner Bros. Discovery renews HBO content deal with Japan’s U-Next streaming service
Warner Bros. Discovery has renewed a content output deal with Japanese streamer U-Next. The Tokyo-based service has been the home of HBO programming in Japan since April 2021. The two partners said Tuesday that the relationship has been extended, although financial terms and a duration for the licensing deal were not disclosed.
HBO series and HBO Max originals covered under the deal include House of the Dragon, The Last of Us and Succession, True Detective: Night Country, Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty and And Just Like That…, along with forthcoming shows like The Idol, White House Plumbers and Love & Death. The pact also gives U-Next exclusive rights to the Japanese premiere of Steven Soderbergh’s Full Circle. Some 2,300 episodes of TV from HBO are included in the agreement.
“The collaboration with Warner Bros Discovery, which began in April 2021, has produced great results as a strategic partnership,” said U-Next CEO Tenshin Tsutsumi. “We have been able to deliver high-quality titles from HBO and HBO Max, the pinnacle of U.S. entertainment, to audiences as quickly as possible, and we feel that the number of opportunities for people to engage with our service through these titles has also increased.”
Under CEO David Zaslav, WBD has pressed pause on previous international rollout plans for HBO Max, as the company focuses on profitability and finalizes its post-merger streaming product for HBO Max/Discovery+. The content sales deal in Japan follows a multi-year output deal for WBD content unveiled last week with Australian pay-TV group Foxtel. The two agreements continue Zaslav’s near-term strategy of aggressively licensing the content library to boost WBD’s bottom line.
U-Next revealed a deal in February to merge with fellow Japanese streamer Premium Platform Japan, operator of the Paravi service. Local media sources estimated that the combined entity will have 3.7 million subscribers and revenue greater than $595 million (800 billion Japanese yen) per year. The local entity will face fierce competition in the premium streaming sector from U.S. giants Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video, among others, but it is backed by leading Japanese broadcasters TBS and TV Tokyo, both sizable shareholders and content suppliers to Premium Platform.
Regional research firm Media Partners Asia estimated in a report last week that Amazon Prime Video had 16 million subscribers in Japan at the end of 2022, followed by Netflix with 7.2 million and Disney+ with 3.4 million. The Hollywood Reporter