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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The State of Sasuke in Japan

The 5th incarnation of the Cliffhanger. This one is called the Ultimate Cliffhanger アルティメットクリフハンガー

This post is to analyze what happened in Sasuke 25 in terms of airing and marketing. First part of the post is to dissect the circumstances of what happened and the second part of the post is to give some ideas as to how to correct the situation so that it doesn't happen again. I hope for many years of Sasuke to come so it's a good time to rethink the problems of Sasuke 25, correct course, and move on. (Posts italicized are contribution from other posters from Sasuke Maniac Forums)

Commercial break during Sasuke 25 - Mao Asada 浅田 真央 from Japan

As many of you know by now Sasuke 25 has aired on TBS (Japan) in late March, 2010. Since then have found out what the ratings were for that show. Ube was kind enough to find us details on how bad it was. It was a catastrophically low 7.5% (*7.5% 19:00-22:48 TBS SASUKE2010春). Not only did they not win for that night.. they didn't win at all for the week! When you look at it logically we shouldn't have expected for Sasuke to win against a ratings juggernaut called the Ladies Figure Skating World Championships Freeskate (especially since Japan's Mao Asada 浅田 真央 had a hefty lead going into the Freeskate against Korea's Yu-Nah Kim キム・ヨナ). Worlds easily won the night with a whopping 22.6% (22.6% 19:58-21:48 CX* 世界フィギュアスケート選手権2010女子フリー).

The disturbing part was that Sasuke wasn't even close to 2nd .. or 3rd.. or even 4th.. Sasuke even got slaughtered in double digits by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (they had a 15.4% rating for that night (15.4% 21:00-23:39 EX__ 日曜洋画劇場・44周年記念・パイレーツオブ・カリビアン/デッドマンズ・チェスト). When taking into account what else was on television that night during the 4 hours broadcast.. Sasuke lost to 15 other shows... yes.. 15.. ranging from News, movies, sports, comedy shows and a dog show.. It was last in every time slot it was in.. 5th-6th depending on how many shows were on that during that hour time slot. As one poster on SMF reminded me.. "The fact that a celeb-free Sasuke was running against Shou Quiz Time Shock 8 超タイムショック!!最強クイズ王決定戦8 which is nothing but celebs. There also looks to have been another game show running against it on NTV."

Yahoo Japan article on the Ratings wins for the weekend of March 27-March 28, 2010
(Koki Kameda on the left and Mao Asada on the right)

When stepping back a bit there were a few things going on for TBS that weekend. (as the Yahoo Article suggests). On Sunday (same day as Sasuke) The Ladies Figure Skating World Championships Freeskate was on Fuji TV フジテレビ. The article also suggests that towards the end of skating the ratings even topped 29%! Meanwhile on Saturday, March 27, 2010, Pongsaklek Wonjongkam of Thailand defeated Koki Kameda 亀田 興毅 (who's younger brother was actually a Sasuke competitor in Sasuke 16 while Koki and his middle brother Daiki were in Monster 9/TBS's What can you do in 3 minutes? last year) by a 12 round majority decision to become the WBC and Ring Flyweight champion. The boxing match was on TBS and it gained a 22.1 rating. So overall .. TBS did very well during the weekend by scoring a huge victory with a 22.1% with the Kameda fight. One could argue that TBS knew it was a hard weekend to beat Fuji television and they scored with the Kameda fight. Ladies Short Program was on Saturday (competing with the Kameda fight) and the Fuji show got close with a 19.9% coming in third in sports for that weekend.

Comparing Sasuke events in the past - All the ratings can be found in the Japanese wiki.
Kane Kosugi ケイン・コスギ during Sportsman #1

It doesn't require too much in the way of math skills to realize where Sasuke 25 rates among all-time shows.. even after the departure of Sportsman #1's hero Kane Kosugi ケイン・コスギ (the original Mr. Monster 9 as I dub him). For those who didn't realize the magnitude of Kane's departure.. the numbers alone help tell the story. His departure marked the end of the Golden Age of Sasuke in terms of ratings. He also left any show that was attached to Monster 9 which included the Sportsman #1 series (both Pro and Geinojen (or Celebrity/Entertainer) Sportsman #1 shows) and of course Kinnikun Banzuke where he made his debut. The Sasuke All-Stars were created to fill the void after the departure of Kane and since have held this show together in the midst of an ever revolving door of competitors that changed from one tournament to the next. (whether they were cut from TBS broadcast (like Kenji Takahashi 高橋賢次) or inexplicably were not invited back by TBS (like Shunsuke Nagasaki 長崎 峻侑)). The irony in all of the ratings numbers is actually LOWER than Kunoichi 8 had (the horrible re-imagining of that great show and even that show got a 9.5%).

Rambling Rican Banner created for the Sasuke DVD Petition

Since then (it has been a few weeks since the news of the ratings) we have found out a few things. First.. our fears of Sasuke being canceled due to the horrible ratings are eased with the news I received by email from Monster 9 recently when asking (again) about the DVD Petition status. That at least gets the whole "omg it's canceled" fear quelled that a lot of us had. Phew! So all of our efforts in our community has been to come up with reasons and solutions for TBS to avoid another ratings disaster. This will be the focus of the rest of this post. Thank you in advance to those who gave ideas and expressed opinions on how to save Sasuke from a similar fate. I am also adding information and concerns collected from the Japanese blogs written right after Sasuke 25.

All-Star Kazuhiko Akiyama 秋山 和彦 - First winner of Sasuke (Sasuke 4)

First and foremost, before anyone starts talking about the content of the show.. the actual content (results, obstacles) was irrelevant to this argument. The audience was not there to begin with. They were not interested in turning on the television to TBS from 19:00-23:48 that night. I will not spend time in analyzing the show in detail since that is not the topic of conversation when it involves ratings. I happen to enjoy the prefecture addition, the look and feel of the first 2 stages personally. The flow to the tournament was done quite well. It was just a shame that not many people turned on the television to watch.

All-Star Makoto Nagano 長野誠 - Sasuke's 2nd winner (Sasuke 17)

One of the main reasons a few of the posters noticed (Japan and overseas) was the over-saturation of the actual Sasuke tournament in terms of the schedule. Sasuke 23, Sasuke 24 and Sasuke 25 all happened within 6 months. Even some competitors were extremely surprised how fast the tournaments were being scheduled. Given that between Sasuke 24 and Sasuke 25 was supposed to be a big "renewal" the anticipation was lost because the show was created in so little time. Returning to the 6 months format between Sasuke competitions is an easy solution for this problem... which leads me to my next point..

New Star Yuuji Urushihara 漆原裕治 - Sasuke's 3rd winner (Sasuke 24)

There was almost no "hype" around the Yuuji Urushihara 漆原裕治 victory. As another poster noted on SMF "I think part of the ratings tank is due to M9 not taking advantage of the momentum created by Sasuke 23. For whatever reason, new guys really got pushed in the old Maniac shows, but M9 never followed through when it came to Sasuke. The result is that the new guys, even Yuuji, aren't seen by the general viewership to be as charismatic as the AllStars." Right after Sasuke 17 there was a whole 1 hour show (Called the Kanzenseiha Special) dedicated to Sasuke and the win for Makoto Nagano. Even something simple as taking time and showing Sasuke's Champion to those who might have not watched Sasuke 24 would have helped in explaining to people the necessity to even have a renewal and why it was "important". NONE of the early Sasuke 25 commercials even have Yuuji's win it!! "They could have spoiled the obstacles a little earlier (just this once, in honor of the 25th tournament), and made a big deal out of the return of classic obstacles. That might have gotten folks a little more excited. "

Sasuke's 3rd Champion Yuuji Urushihara 漆原裕治 posing for friends and showing off a gift shirt created for him during a friends gathering in April, 2010 ©Ryo Matachi 又地諒

What is the point of having a renewal if TBS didn't even acknowledge the champion? Even the official Sasukemania website didn't even have Yuuji's win in it. Here we are in April, 2010 and Monster 9 has not updated the website to showcase their brand new champion. It's been FOUR months since Yuuji's win and even G4 has caught up and it still isn't updated on the official site. So anyone in Japan going to the website to see the "updated results" so they know what is going on in Sasuke 25 had no clue anyone won or that there was a renewal. The results and even "current champions" is not updated. Monster 9 should concentrate on updating the Japanese audience (their target audience) of their own shows. "The official websites don't actually tell you anything (the web site especially so, the mobile site has at least some interesting things). All the web site is is a shrine to the show. More people probably found out about the show from the Muscle Park blog than the SASUKE website." It is the Japanese audience who creates the ratings for Sasuke. It is also shameful that everyone has to look to foreign blogs (such as Lost in Ube and here in Rambling Rican) to get current information.

2010 Sportsman No. 1 Monster Box Special

They should have taken time to showcase their new champion in other venues and even doing cross promotion for the show. Something that used to happen in the past no longer happens - Cross-promotion in other shows and other forms of media. For Sasuke fans we we remember things like Viking, Banzuke, Sportsman #1. There were magazine articles tied to the series itself (as opposed to one particular show) and even projects like Power of Sasuke. Sasuke competitors like Sato Hiromichi and Katsumi Yamada were in other talk shows and even specials that didn't have to do with Sasuke. There were commercials! For Yuuji's sake, even inviting the current champion to participate in Sportsman #1 Monster box special would have been good. Considering that this special was not a Pro event and even featured 3 All-Stars (Nagano, Takeda and Shingo) and other Sasuke competitors, it would have been a great opportunity to bring Yuuji into the limelight and further celebrate his win in Sasuke. Both the taping and the airtime for Sportsman #1 was after Sasuke 24's taping and airtime so there wasn't any real reason to not include him.

This also leads me to one of the best solutions that I've heard. They need a standalone TV show like Kinniku Banzuke - and not some late-night show that only people in Tokyo will see like SASUKE Mania - that people will see week in and week out and pound into people's heads that SASUKE is coming. This show was like going back in time promotion wise. While I agree that it would be great if Monster 9 went back to the Banzuke, Viking, Sportsman #1, Kunoichi, Sasuke in all one year days.. the likelihood of things like that happening again is very small. I'd settle if they did cross promotion between Sasuke and something like Sportsman #1 (Geinojin). It was fun seeing the All-Stars in the Monster Box special but I would love to see Sasuke-famous competitors try the Geinojin course. Who knows what could happen!? I also agree that doing a show that's national rather than a Kanto Region only show would help raise the level of awareness to Sasuke in general. While I enjoyed Sasuke Maniac but it was clear almost no one watched it. It was also in a very limited market in the middle of the night. For me in the USA it was great but for those who live in Japan it wasn't watched since everyone was already sleeping in preparation for school and work that very morning.

Makoto Nagano 長野 誠 during the Monster Box Special

Almost no information on the actual show existed for Sasuke 25. TBS/Monster 9 - Please allow others to help promote the show. I can't stress enough how difficult it has been for us to find half of this stuff. Even simple things like names of who will be a part of the show were being muted or deleted online. Even when I tried to update my own site I would notice that blogs would disappear overnight or worse.. the ones who did were cut from the main show. I understand that TBS/Monster 9 were trying to hard to keep people from breaking the NDA and of course secure any results from being leaked to the internet before the official showing on TBS. There were a lot of people just saying "please see Sasuke on March 28th" and those people were cut from the TBS broadcast. Since then, less and less people posted any information including the date of Sasuke's official airing. Some were terrified to say anything at all and chose not to even discuss who was going to be a part of it. No results were ever given but it was almost certain that anyone who posted something online (a competitor who wasn't 'famous') was immediately disciplined by being cut from the show. That deterred ANY information coming out on the show so trying to spread the information of "Sasuke 25" by word of mouth was immediately squashed by Monster 9 and TBS.

Akira Omori 大森晃 - Comedian Monkikki or Monkickey (モンキッキー)

Yes.. this is painful for us in the United States to hear but this is CRITICAL in the success of Sasuke. As another poster mentioned "It seems like Sasuke needed celebrities to bring the ratings up, but got crushed by other shows which had celebs and skaters. So no big names." and "Hopefully IF Sasuke 26 airs, they'll get some stars out there. I think, maybe, M9 or TBS thought that the show was a guaranteed success due to it being a "Renewal" and all. Regardless, they need to "Sell out" a bit imo. More hot girls, celebs, and joke competitors. I didn't laugh very much during Sasuke 25. That's key to the ratings. It has to be just as funny as it is exciting, that's what makes Sasuke so great. They need to take a lesson from G4's book. Not the "How to Kill your Fanbase" chapter, but the "How to gain ratings" chapter." Granted.. not the over-saturation of comedians like it was for Sasuke 24.. but a good amount of people the Japanese viewing audience would recognize (Sports heroes, important comedians, recent Pop Stars). Sasuke 25 was devoid of a lot of non-Sasuke famous celebrities that the casual viewer can turn on TBS that day to watch.

Kazuhiro Fujiwara 藤原一裕 of comedy duo License ライセンス In Sasuke 23

One of the many things missing from Sasuke 25 was the amount of posts online within Japan promoting the upcoming show featuring their favorite "stars". That of course coincided with the lack of celebrities to begin with. Celebs will have it on their schedules as either posts or information that is updated from time to time. That gets the information out there. Celebs are the most reliable group in terms of keeping things secret yet still getting the message out. Once it is "official" fans spread the word or blog about it themselves. An appearance from a mid-level comedy duo (License) had tons of blogs repeating the same information over and over. That's good for the show. That was definitely the case as when I started to do my search on the competitors I kept running into the fans of the show excited about the show based on who was going. I lost track at 100 posts just for people to watch Sasuke because Fujihara from License was going to be on the show.

Comedy duo Audrey オードリー - (Masayasu Wakabayashi 若林 正恭 and Toshiaki Kasuga 春日 俊彰) (Sasuke 22 and Sasuke 24)

More posts from SMF:
"To the hardcore Sasuke fan, this was a fairly well tournament. To a casual Sasuke fan (the ones who watch for their favorite comedian then end up watching the entire broadcast) this sucked. I only recognized Dandy and Rien (the two from that boy band) as joke competitors. If there were any more that participated in the past, I didn't recognize them. MM (Muscle Musical) not being there HURT them imo. Hell, I was shocked when I didn't see Wakky or Monkiki. Bottom line, you can't be too uptight on keeping things spoiled which causes you to advertise days before the event, nor can you expect a big turnout for a 2 months difference by word-of-mouth alone. Now that Sasuke is back to normal in terms of scheduling, maybe they'll think about what they did wrong and change their advertising habits and the course. IMO I wouldn't touch the course if it means you'll make a key mistake in the advertising."

.. because there hasn't been another one since.. current reigning Sportsman No. 1 Geinojin (Entertainer) Champion is Wakky ワッキー

Another point that was well worth mentioning was the lack of advertising outside of the fanbase. As many of you know I follow every possible website and mention to get a jump on what is going to happen in Sasuke. We knew 5 weeks ahead of time but even when I discussed the show with others in Japan who don't follow Sasuke as closely as I do.. most people just didn't know Sasuke 25 was happening and let alone that soon! "The thing is, we seemed to be the only group that had such advanced warning. Besides the TV guide and the couple of commercials, was there ANY advertisement for Sasuke 25 in Japan? I know the TBS page had it, but honestly, who looks at a tv station's website. No special previews or anything (the Navi doesn't count- they do that for every Sasuke). " Even I had a hard time finding anything substantive about Sasuke 25. You know how bad it is when someone from Japan sends ME a message through Rambling Rican just to find out when Sasuke was airing in their own country.. that was my experience during Sasuke 25.

Bottom line "Everybody dropped the ball here. From the network to the producers to casting to everyone else down the line." I am hoping with the scare of these ratings that by the time Sasuke 26 rolls around there is more work done by TBS and Monster 9 to raise the ratings. For those of us who LOVE Sasuke, we would like to see it succeed for a very, very long time.


Some Kinda Wonderful said...

yes, yes, yes, and... yes. I admit to being quite disillusioned by the decisions M9 has taken in the past few Sasuke tournaments. I do hope they get it better from here on out.

Panther said...

I agree with your post. I mean seriously, running three tourney's back to back, with no time to rest, maybe that's why all the competetors were having issues competing.
I understand M9 wants to compete with the ratings but why in the world would anyone in their right mind put on a show like Sasuke, whenever they are running olympics or figureskating, both which are huge in Japan? *shakes her head* Hopefully M9 will wake up.
With the way they are doing things,it seems more like a chore to watch then actual enjoyment.

TigerOfHaughton said...

Great blog, Elsie. I agree with your ideas. I have another idea that I think would help the ratings for 26. TBS/M9, if you are reading this-- BRING YAMADA BACK!!! If he wants to come back for 26, then let him come back. He's Mr. Sasuke, and he's popular with the Japanese fans. I would think that bringing him back would help ratings.

ArtemisFowljr said...

Great job, agreed with everything you wrote.
I sooo hope they read this.It would be kinda cool to know we (speaking as community. I haven't really written anything because I don't feel an expert in this field) helped out a bit.
I would do pretty much anything ti help Sasuke's succes...I swear if I had a spot on Sasuke I'd turn into a cheerleader if that can help with ratings, lol.
IMO, part of this problem also is that All Stars (and Nagano especially.../tears) aren't doing as good as they used to. As said before, All Stars were created to keep ratings up after Kosugi left. As much as the New Stars can be good,they still can't replace them.
Heck, I myself still feel like there's something missing if there aren't any All Stars in stage 3.
So they should A- promote the New Stars and B- hope the veterans do better.
Anyway, I'm incredibly happy we WILL have a Sasuke 26. I'm going to train as hard as I can, and hopefully this could be the time I finally manage to get there, if I'm very lucky. *crosses fingers*

Rufus said...

Wow. That was a very thorough, in-depth, impressive analysis. Were/are you involved in media studies?

Chaki said...

As someone living in Japan, these are my comments.

Indeed, the lack of promotion for Sasuke makes me wonder if I did not read this site, I would actually know the airdate for Sasuke. I don't buy TV guides but I do watch news on all the channels regularly, but there are almost no promotion for this Sasuke as opposed to the one on New Years where CMs were on all the time. That show fared decently against Red Carpet (a Saturday Night Live comedy show) special. I was at my in-laws and I know it was on in my BIL's room and the boys watched it in between Sasuke.

We don't watch Tokyo Friend Park as much as my kids would like to, but my daughter mentions wanting to see Nagano and Takeda on it every time. TFP is that zany game show where people velcro themselves on walls, etc. It's on TBS and everyone on the show is promoting some TBS program. If they got Takeda, Nagano, Yuji and Koji on it, they would set records. And all the TFP watchers (it's a popular show) would tune into Sasuke.

As for the comedians, I noticed their importance in watching my kids react. They really missed Wakki, Kasuga and Yoshio Kojima. They LOVED watching the Octopus Guy who arguably plays a comedian on that show. Having recognizable faces makes the first stage more interesting.

Most Japanese viewers are casual Sasuke watchers. When they flip the channel and see a face they want to root for, they may settle down to watch. Indeed, then building up a fanbase for guys like Yuji and Koji, the new stars, is very important.

And they all have great stories. Yuji is the most unlikely athlete. Koji as a Nihon University of Physical Education gymnast is the most likely athlete, yet very few Nittai gymnasts besides him have actually made it this far in Sasuke. Great preservance. I know
M9 can create powerful drama on this guys...

Arsenette said...

Wow a lot of comments :) Hey everyone :) I'm bobbing my head like a bobble doll (saying yes to all the comments) so I say "Thanks for all the comments!" I do hope they read it but I'm not holding my breath.

Oh Rufus, yes and no. I majored in film in college (I wanted to be a editor and/or producer) and worked 5 years in Television (affiliate first then network) so I've seen what pros look like and what causes them to make decisions. It's always fascinated me but working in TV made me realize I loved film better :p Different politics.. LOL I only had 1 journalism class but realized how much you were beholden to your editors so I stopped.

Wow Chaki I had no idea about Tokyo Friend Park.. LOL I think I would LOVE to see the Sasuke guys in that! It would be like them entering Takeshi's Castle/MXC!! Maybe have the kids write to M9 or TBS? They'd listen to them :)

Anonymous said...

Shocking ratings! :(

Thanks for such a well-written detailed in-depth analaysis.

But this could be a blessing in disguise. A wake-up call. a REAL RENEWAL in the minds of the show producers ie. Monster 9 & TBS.

Best of Luck to Sasuke. :)

snowy said...

Spot on. I hope M9 takes heed of Sasuke 25's abysmal ratings, and takes steps to improve promotion.

HawaiiGirl said...

Thanks for always updating your website! This is my go to place for information about the ninja warriors. :) I have a question for you you know if makoto nagano still updates his website? I would like to send him fan mail, but have no idea where to send it to. Is it possible you can point me in the right direction? Mahalo

HawaiiGirl said...

Thank you so much for posting sasuke information on your website! Without you, I would never know much about these guys. I recently started watching this show with my boyfriend and we could not believe how awesome this show is. I have a question for you know if Makoto updates his website? I would like to send him fan mail, but have no idea where to send it. If you could point me in the right direction, I would be so grateful. Thanks!

Arsenette said...

Welcome :)

Makoto's site is sponsored by his employer Takasui Corp. The link is always on the right hand side of the blog under "links". Once you get inside Makoto's page in the site there is a form that they use for mail. He does answer them when he gets a chance. He himself doesn't update the site. Someone in his job does it for him and it's off and on lately. Most of the main updates are tied to the front page of the account (the lists with numbers) but the rest are on his dedicated page along with the form. Please use as simple English as possible since they have to use a translator when they get it. Once it's translated they email it to him on his phone. Provided he has time he does on occasion message back. Good luck!

There's also snail mail if you want to send him something. If you want that I can copy and paste it (English version of the address).

HawaiiGirl said...

Thanks so much! I sent him an email, I just hope he responds :) Anyways, if it is not too much trouble, I would like to know the snail mail addy if possible. I think it is so unique that he is so accepting and appreciative of his fans.

Arsenette said...

Not a problem. :) This has been the address we have been using for a while now. That's one of the Takasui offices.

Mr. Makoto Nagano
c/o Takasui K.K.
Maguro Honmachi 1-1
Kushikno-shi, Kagoshima-Ken

TigerOfHaughton said...

Hope the ratings are better for Sasuke 26. TBS reads this blog, don't they? Maybe they'll pay attention to the suggestions here.

Oh, new post on my blog. I borrowed a pic from one of your posts, but I said where it came from. This is part 1. I'll do part 2 in a few days.

Arsenette said...

Awww good luck today! I'm sure you will do well :) Hey feeling like Shingo is always good :) Tehehehheehhe

I'm hoping the length of the post will not deter TBS/M9 from reading it but you know me.. I couldn't do it any shorter.. LOL! I already cut off like 10 paragraphs :D

TigerOfHaughton said...

Thanks. I'll do my best. This time I'm determined. I'm going to do my best to win 1st place in at least one event.

rj nada @ NDA Agreement said...

Nice post. It's about promoting the show online - there are many markets around the world that would love the show; greater support might make M9 see sense!! And btw, loving Yuuji Urushihara's posing in his gift t-shirt after the win. Let's hope the ratings increase from here.