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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sasuke related updates - My frustration with Comcast, TBS and Monster 9

Stage 3 overlooking the Final stage in Sasuke 27 ©Chabouzu blog

As I mentioned in my last blog, Sasuke 27 has officially taped in Japan. It took place on Monday, July 18th just before the Typhoon hit (so no it was not a dramatic Sasuke 8 with pouring rain). Now.. comes the agonizing part. Since my last couple entries I've been meaning to write this blog and wasn't sure how it was going to turn out. No matter how I spin it.. it's not positive. Not since my State of Sasuke in Japan have I been this frustrated. Either way here it is. As we know it the landscape of Sasuke in Japan has drastically changed. I have to mention "In Japan" now since it's 2 different worlds with how "Ninja Warrior" has presented Sasuke worldwide ever since the inclusion of American Ninja Warrior. With the inclusion of G4/NBC/Comcast calling the shots and asking for more and more of the show with nothing in return, TBS/M9 have chosen to follow the gravy train and given Comcast (I'll put it under that heading since it encompasses NBC and G4) the right of way on just about everything including first air rights. There must be some serious money being tossed around for both Monster 9 and TBS to fold and sacrifice Sasuke Japan to the Comcast dollar. It first happened back in December, 2010 when for the first time G4 aired Sasuke 26 results ahead of TBS's broadcast in Japan. I was appalled back then but I didn't think they would do it again.. so I wrote a long letter to Monster 9 asking some pretty hard questions. I never expected them to write back considering they have ignored most of my letters for the past year or so. Heck... it took them almost 2 years to get an answer about our DVD petition back from Monster 9. I only get occasional updates from TBS on twitter but even less from Monster 9.

ANW3 hosts in front of the World 2011 Sasuke Sign ©Matt Iseman

Since then I've gotten communication back that literally rocked my world. All my conclusions thus far were based on supposition and looking at the trends both here and in the Japan market. Gloom and Doom as they are it all pointed to one conclusion. Ube (from Lost in Ube) and I have been tackling the same problem from different angles but all going to the same conclusion. We disagree with the eventual outcome but we came to the same conclusion. Finally I got confirmation of what I feared the most. Sasuke Japan is no longer a priority to Monster 9... the American market is..

Thank you for your inquiry.
Popularity of SASUKE in foreign countries such as the United States is increasing.
Especially in the United States, where NBC was acquired by Comcast Corporation who is the parent company of G4TV,
it increased the popularity of SASUKE.
Therefore, due to this overseas popularity, priority was given to it's being broadcasted in the U.S.

All-Star Toshihiro Takeda 竹田敏浩, Taiwan's Lee En Chi リー・エンチ and All-Star Shingo Yamamoto 山本進悟 ©Lee Enchi

It was interesting that they ignored 90% of my email only to confirm the part I thought they would ignore.. They confirmed TBS no longer is given priority to first air. The main show.. the official broadcaster.. the producers of the show.. the reason why we WATCH Sasuke at all.. is no longer priority to Monster 9. Shouldn't be surprising since Monster 9 has abandoned promoting Sasuke in their own websites for the past 2 years. When stars of the show like Nagano get information from ME that tournaments are coming.. you know it's bad in Japan.. It wouldn't be half as disturbing had G4 actually showed all of Sasuke.. but they don't. As of late, Comcast has gone out of their way to erase Sasuke from ever being mentioned in the same breath as American Ninja Warrior. Whenever the finals are shown.. it's "the fabled Mount Midoriyama" (which in and of itself is funny since putting Mount in front of Midoriyama is redundant.. the word already means Green Mountain but whatever.. shows how stupid G4 is) instead of saying they are in Sasuke with 90 other competitors. Whenever ANW is shown the "Ninja Warrior" episodes show almost 6 months after ANW and heavily altered. You don't see a unified competition anymore. TBS by contrast doesn't alter results.. they only condense for time and put results in Fast forwards as the most they would do.. but never will they omit a result. Comcast can care less that 150 countries BUY Ninja Warrior for a complete show. Sasuke 23, Sasuke 26 and Sasuke 27 will all have altered results to benefit only one entity.. Comcast. It doesn't benefit any other company other than them. Meanwhile, fans of Sasuke are relegated to waiting months just to see the OFFICIAL BROADCAST of Sasuke. TBS at least hasn't deleted footage of clears since they see it as a global show.. Something Comcast could learn but never will.

All-Star Makoto Nagano 長野誠 with Taiwan's Lee En Chi リー・エンチ posing with Lee's new workout book ©Lee Enchi

The other thing that disturbs me is the disingenuous look on how they twist information. Thanks to how G4 airs things.. Ninja Warrior hasn't had a high rating in G4 for literally years. The only spike they had in ratings was the premiere episode of ANW2 back in December. Now what's interesting is that it was literally less than a 0.3 rating.. about 233,000 +/- people watching at once. Here we are freaking out about Sasuke 26 having a 9.0 rating and G4 is praising a 0.3 rating? WTF... I remember bringing this to the attention of TBS on Twitter and they told me "oh but that's cable ratings).. I couldn't stop laughing.. To put things in perspective during the same time-frame.. everything else was averaging well over 2 million viewers for a "fair" show.. most of the cable ratings at the time were actually higher. They didn't even break the top 100 CABLE ratings.. And this was ANW.. not Ninja Warrior. Since then the ratings plummeted once people realized what it was they were watching and when Boot Camp aired for the first time. There was a massive boycott that went on during Boot Camp and G4 went into overdrive deleting posts from Facebook alone (they don't control other outlets including twitter and other boards around the world) to keep the image that ANW was succeeding. But they can't fool the Nielsen ratings either since they publish everything of note. Now G4 spins it saying it was the highest rated show of all time in G4 (which is true considering that the only thing they show on G4 are endless reruns of Cops and Cheaters) and that 8 million have watched ANW.. what he fails to mention was that they ADDED ALL the numbers of every single rerun of ANW for the ENTIRE MONTH OF DECEMBER.. and even that doesn't even equal a top rated show in network on one.. night.. talk about spin.. so when I hear TBS going off about how popular "Sasuke" is.. I get upset because those aren't the numbers. Why? Because THEY GAVE THEM POWER. I can care less what G4 does with ANW.. honestly I do.. it's when it affects Sasuke worldwide that I lose my marbles. G4 is not doing them a favor.. they are hindering it. We would GLADLY watch Sasuke if it wasn't altered by G4. We didn't even get to watch Sasuke 26 for almost 6 months after the American runs were shown. Not even the standby argument by apologists that "it takes time to edit" stood ground since they had the entire tournament at their disposal to edit before TBS aired the damn show in Japan. All the while the entire world had to wait since they buy the NW format.

Stage 1 of Sasuke 27 ©Chabouzu blog

So why would Monster 9 decide to forgo having Sasuke in Japan for a network that invents ratings? Again.. I have to think its a lot of money. The phrase is "follow the money". ANW can't even hold a sponsor from one tournament to another.. they are on their 3rd major sponsor upping a cash prize for something that hasn't happened. Don't get me started on the fact that they have ZERO intention of actually awarding a Sasuke winner that's not an American. Personally I have no problems with the money.. I have problems with the discriminatory way of distributing the award. It's only to those from the United States since Comcast doesn't deem anyone else in the tournament equally worthy. God forbid Nagano wins again.. I would love to hear their explanation why he wasn't worth half a million dollars when he was in the SAME TOURNAMENT as everyone else including the Americans. After all this is not the competitor's fault nor do they influence stupid corporate decisions.

Mister Sasuke All-Star Katsumi Yamada 山田勝己, Taiwan's Lee En Chi リー・エンチ and All-Star Toshihiro Takeda 竹田敏浩 ©Lee Enchi

Either way, knowing it was going to air after NBC's coverage I did some digging as to when this could possibly happen. We know G4 has started to air ANW episodes (the prelims, semi's and that horrible Survivor-style boot camp) since they started last week July 31st. NBC's coverage is on Monday, August 22nd (which I'll always remember simply because it's on my 39th birthday... I call that irony.. LOL). We already know that it's not the full tournament.. it's only the Americans runs in Sasuke 27. As we know from the Ninja Warrior Facebook page.. one that is heavily altered by the mods whenever someone posts something negative (it just gets deleted to make the page look pretty for TBS which retweets the NW Facebook page at least once a week...) people who don't follow the show as much as we hardcore fans do think that somehow American Ninja Warrior contestants have the tournament all to themselves. People are THAT stupid and Comcast is more than happy to oblige. Not even having a list of people shown on TBS on Sasukepedia helps them understand the magic of television that G4 edited out the Americans. Heck.. I spent last month explaining to the Brits that there were 6 people in the 3rd stage.. not 2 like G4 tried to explain to the Ninja Warrior viewers. They were not happy to know that alteration massive changed the entire atmosphere of the tournament. No one watches ANW folks.. so stop trying to separate the 2.. the competitors themselves don't like it either..

Brian Orosco ブライアン・オロスコ on ANW ©nbc sports off the bench

Which leads me to my next point. I now love Brian Orosco more than I thought I did. It's a bit shocking to hear the off the cuff remarks of people who have been in the G4 process for literally years. Brian is one of them. Brian has been in American Ninja Challenge, earned his right to go to Sasuke 20 via some dumb head to head course back in ANC2 (when it used to be called American Ninja Challenge), had to be voted back in to return to Sasuke while others were just sent automatically, had to requalify again after still making it past the first stage then had to requalify yet again to return.. so yeah.. he's used to the G4 bull.. Either way this awesome article on Brian and his remarks on how the American Television reality of it all is destroying Sasuke since it literally is a clash of cultures. I'm happy he's a true Sasuke fan despite having to be pulled and hawed by G4's whims in trying to promote ANW. I love these quotes by Brian on my thoughts exactly. This pertains to Sasuke in general and how it's being ripped apart by Comcast here in the USA.. especially when it's deleted in the Ninja Warrior Broadcasts:

I almost look at it as perpetuating a tradition, something that’s really honorable that’s been around for awhile, and it’s changed and evolved so much over time that it’s more to the point where we’re trying to keep an old tradition alive. I think it’s really cool from a production standpoint to get to watch every competitor.

If we get the games to America, I know the essence of the competition will change. Bringing it to America culture would probably marginalize the experience. Take away the honor involved.

Taiwan's Lee En Chi リー・エンチ and All-Star Shingo Yamamoto 山本進悟 laughing at something in Lee's workout book ©Lee Enchi

So in the end.. what does this mean for Sasuke in Japan? Who knows for sure at this point. TBS is doing absolutely nothing to promote Sasuke in Japan. Monster 9 hasn't even updated their own main website with the EXISTENCE of Sasuke 27 in Japan. Sasukemania website just updated their results page of.. Sasuke 25 ... and now Monster 9 is trying to charge us for information that they themselves can't even update on a timely basis. Heck.. their plans for a paid fanclub for Sasuke in Japan also failed so why should this be any different? All attempts to contact them in over a month have failed. So if they can't even answer my own questions about Sasuke why should fans pay for something that isn't even a guarantee? You would think if they want to ease any doubts fans have they would actively be promoting the website in all places and be talking about it? Anyway.. I'm digressing again.

Ube did a great job in checking the current information about possible airdates in Japan. Here's a cut and paste from the SMF of what he found out:

The gist: Currently there is none. Sorry.
In a bit more detail:

The schedule for August is out in print form - TBS has two other events going on that will be tying up their schedule. One is the FIVB World Grand Prix which runs throughout August. This is the women's volleyball world championships. Women's volleyball is pretty popular in Japan (much more so than men's volleyball) so it gets a lot of coverage.

The other is the IAFF World Championships in Athletics (i.e. track and field) which goes for just over week starting in late August and going into the beginning of September.
There are no gaps or unknown programming in the TBS schedule for the entire month (sometimes early schedules have "TBA" slots).
This goes with what I stated elsewhere that the earliest a SASUKE could be broadcast would be in September.

Again we are used to TBS telling everyone at the tournament when they plan to be on television. Usually you get twitter and blogposts of "see me on TBS on yada yada date".. but they didn't this time. No one was told when it will air. Nobody. With rumors going as far as September/October as "possible" it disturbs me that they really have no plan in promoting Sasuke in Japan again. We are relegated to waiting around to see if ANW does well on NBC in August for a tournament that taped in JULY.. c'mon Monster 9.. tell us if you really want to save Sasuke or just want ANW to succeed so you can sell the rights to the spin off on NBC? It would help us greatly in understanding why there is no effort to save Sasuke in Japan.


lostinube said...

Celebs have not blogged about it yet because they don't generally blog (nor do their agencies announce) their appearances more than a month in advance. When the airdate was very close to the taping date, they probably had more leeway in posting.

Getting information off of twitter has only really become a factor since last year.

Arsenette said...

True though you have to admit that no one getting the information at the taping regardless of tier is significant. At least with Sasuke 26 where the spread was over 2 months we still knew it was a "New Year's" Sasuke and everyone was told around that time. They were told nothing this time around.

snowy said...

That was a mighty rant. Two things come to mind immediately.

The first is that whoever kicks in the most money calls the shots in any organization, and this is no different.

The second is something I've been noticing lately, whenever a US media outlet is discussing the show. It's VERY noticeable in the Orosco interview.

There seems to be a concerted effort not to use the word "Sasuke" at all, and I don't think it's coincidental. That doesn't bode well.

Rufus said...

I'm afraid I don't even fully grasp their reasoning.

They sold broadcasting rights to the US because they wanted to take advantage of American markets... even though the show's performance in the US is worse than in Japan? I could understand if the show had BLOWN UP in the US and completely overshadowed it's performance on Japanese television, but... are they really riding on the hopes that it will do better? Really?

I've made peace with the fact that G4 has made their own show (ANW). But it saddens me to think of what this conclusion means for the future of the show as a whole. We're already seeing the consequences...

Honestly, TBS/Monster would do better streaming the damn show on youtube or something.

lampini said...

so ninja warriro is only going to be on g4 or nbc

also is it still going to have nagano and lee and takeda or is it just the americans

lampini said...

I hope nbc comcast g4 or who ever the hell is airing ninja warrior still includes nagano lee kongu and the rest because if they show just the americans then they lost like 60% of there viewers

Arsenette said...

Sorry I have comment moderation so it doesn't come out the first time just hang on until I hit accept :)

NBC will have only the Americans and not any of the other competitors. It's the same as the last 2 episodes of both ANW and ANW2. The actual NW episodes with the rest of the competition will only air on G4 but that's months down the road..

Brian said...

Ya I hope ANW and Sasuke don't become more materialized. I freaking hate it when I tell people I competed on American Ninja Warrior and the first thing they ask is "Did you win anything?".

Gregory said...

I don't mind that the US gets to air part of Sasuke before Japan does. I live in the US, I enjoy the show, and therefore, it's fine with me.

Arsenette said...

I hope more people don't think like you. If the necessity for the show to air in it's own country is not found it won't be around for much longer since it won't be relevant. I think that would be a shame to lose Sasuke Japan.

Gregory said...

That doesn't really make any sense. What the US wants to broadcast with their competitors shouldn't effect how it's aired in Japan. 27 will still air over there as it always has.

I don't agree with everything G4 does, but I'm not going to find a way to critize every single decision. If they can turn around the footage quickly for their broadcast (there are only 10 competitors to edit after all), then so be it.

Arsenette said...

It makes perfect sense. Unlike Wipeout that sole the idea and format from TBS and are in litigation because of it.. TBS/M9 now are supporting and awarding the support to Comcast to do the spin-off (ANW). If they feel it's more financial sense to allow ANW to replace Sasuke in the USA (and ultimately worldwide) then it's in TBS/M9's best interest to drop Sasuke and stop continuing to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Japan market creating a show that is not watched by the domestic audience in Japan. It's basic economics and that's why TBS/M9 are no longer supporting or putting their efforts in the dying Japanese market and changing their tactic by supporting ANW. When Sasuke is canceled in it's place they will have a product to sell worldwide since they will still have co-rights.

I could care less what the broadcast of ANW looks like.. I do give a damn when it is replacing Sasuke in Japan.

Anonymous said...

You can only hope that they are chucking so much money at m9/tbs that it finances all production costs. So they could make sasuke just because it costs them nothing to do so.

Gregory said...

Your logic is flawed. You're angry that ANW could replace Sasuke in Japan. Why is that a reason to be angry at Comcast? Their broadcasts of the series, and their spinoffs, have nothing to do with the declining interest in Japan, or the money they're losing there.

Arsenette said...

No that is not what I'm saying at all. And if you read the whole post I'm angry with all 3. TBS and M9 specifically for shifting their resources, time and priority to the USA market sacrificing Sasuke in Japan. If they deem ANW is worth their time they will eliminate Sasuke in Japan completely. That's the direct it's already heading. THAT is why I'm angry. As for Comcast I don't like the red-headed stepchild that Ninja Warrior has become by being shown 6 months late, edited poorly with bad facts, bad translation and most of all the elimination of the American competitors in that event. THAT is the product that is sold around the world and that is entirely Comcast's fault it's edited that way since they are the ones who do the editing.

Arsenette said...

P.S. Japan doesn't air ANW at all. It won't either. That's strictly a USA event and is not even sold anywhere else outside of the states.

lampini said...

is japan still going to air sasuke 27 or is it just up to american when they can air it

Arsenette said...

Japan is airing it but it's TBS that controls when. M9 asked TBS to delay the broadcast to after ANW's airing of Sasuke 27 results (of Americans only obviously. That's the NBC broadcast). As of now we have no idea when TBS is going to air it. Our guess is sometime late September into October. That would be 2-3 months after taping while the Sasuke 27 American runs will be shown next week in isolation. G4 won't show "Ninja Warrior 27" for several months after that as per history.

Unknown said...

Well, I guess this means Brian didn't make it. We'll see what happens tomorrow night. Please, NBC, don't blow it.

Arsenette said...

Whoops I didn't see your message. We'll see how NBC does tonight and ratings tomorrow afternoon.

Unknown said...

Let me explain why I dropped the little comment. Does anyone else find it interesting that they interviewed Brian for the NBC article WHEN HE DIDN'T EVEN MAKE THE FINAL 10 TO JAPAN? You would think that if they interviewed Brian, that he would have went to Japan (or interviewed David maybe). Otherwise, the only worth is his veteran knowledge (which is a perfectly good reason to interview him).

Unknown said...

One last clarification. I wanted Brian to go to Japan, but I guess I made the wrong assumption that NBC would interview someone who would appear on the show (he was the most qualified regardless to speak).