Softbank, Yahoo start Internet television service

Softbank Corp. and Yahoo Japan Corp. said today they have formed a company to broadcast television programs via the Internet, taking advantage of the growing number of Japanese users on advanced, high-speed Internet connections.

The two companies said the joint venture, TV Bank Corp., would operate a new streaming video service called "Yahoo!Doga", which aims to be a portal site for about 100,000 different programs including movies, sports and music shows as well as drama series from Japan, Taiwan and South Korea.

Doga means "moving image" in Japanese.

Shares of Softbank surged 8 percent to close at a five-year high of 11,700 yen on the news, which was released during afternoon trade. Shares of Yahoo Japan, of which Softbank owns 42 percent, rallied 5.04 percent to 146,000 yen.

The service will likely ratchet up the pressure on Japanese broadcasters to change their business models to integrate the Internet in the broadband era. Japan is one of the world's most advanced broadband markets and offers the cheapest Internet access in the world.

"Japan has the infrastructure for this kind of service, so it would be a shame not to use it," Softbank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son told a news conference.

"We think the way to go is to not try to control one broadcaster but work with all of them," he said, referring to recent attempts by Internet companies Rakuten Inc. and Livedoor Co. to take over television networks.

Son said the service was in a trial phase and would be officially launched next March.

TV Asahi Corp. has signed on as a content partner. Softbank is in discussions with other television networks, including Fuji Television Network Inc..

Softbank needs to sign on the television networks because they control much of both the television and movie businesses in Japan, unlike in the United States, where Hollywood studios control the lion's share of desirable content.

Some of the content would be sponsored by advertisers, while some would be provided on a pay-per-view basis.

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