Japan Today

What is Japan’s most used on-demand video streaming service?

By Master Blaster, SoraNews24

It’s been a long time coming, but Japan has finally embraced subscription-based video streaming services. While video rental stores had already been wiped clear off the map in many other countries, they seemed to have a tenacious presence in Japan, and a few of the remaining major chains can still be found relatively easily today.

But with Netflix’s entrance to the Japanese market in September of 2015, the race finally got into full swing. According to a report by Marketing Research Camp, 16.5 percent of Japanese residents use these services. The way in which this pales to the 53 percent usage in the USA should show how far behind we still are though.

So with this new market burgeoning, many contenders have come out of the woodwork. Hulu got a huge head start in Japan, launching way back in 2011. But it hasn’t been as aggressive as Netflix and suffered a few set backs last year when the company changed hands, including a very unpopular new interface. Hulu Japan boasts over 40,000 titles.


Video rental giant Tsutaya has also ventured into the streaming business but hasn’t really seemed to attack it with the same gusto that they had with physical rentals. And then there’s a whole slew of services from Japanese telecom companies like SoftBank and J:Com, some with amusingly hard-to-pronounce names.

And who among all these competitors is on top? Let’s look at the ranking.


In Japan, Amazon Prime Video is by far the most used video streaming service, which is mind-boggling to me because after signing up for a trial version, I quit after about ten minutes. Its selection and options were rather limited, and I was even asked to pay additional fees to watch certain titles.

The situation in Japan is nearly the opposite of the situation in the U.S. according to data from Statista.


If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that Amazon Japan is having an all too easy time reeling in pre-existing Amazon users. And given Japan’s overall on-demand video naiveté, people probably just assume the others are more or less the same and stick with it.

The Japanese standings of Hulu and Netflix likely largely boil down to timing. Netflix has made a fairly wide advertising campaign, and yet when those who do not subscribe to any service were asked which company they’d consider, Netflix could only get 23.6 percent of people compared to Hulu’s 33.3 percent and Amazon’s 30.6 percent. Hulu simply seems more entrenched in the Japanese consciousness at this point.

Here’s what those online had to say about it:

“Over 50 percent is pretty amazing.”

“Amazon’s line-up is pretty crappy and good titles get taken down quickly.”

“Hulu’s UI is garbage.”

“Definitely in terms of quality, Netflix is the best option.”

“The Japanese Netflix original shows are garbage.”

“It’s good to have choices, but all of them are just different levels of crap, so there isn’t a big difference. So I’d go with Prime.”

“I decided to throw away my TV rather than pay 1,500 a month to NHK. Amazon Prime for 500 yen is a way better option.”

“Half of the people use Amazon, that’s hilariously embarrassing.”

It would seem a majority of comments online are praising the quality of Netflix’s content, meaning that despite the numbers, positive word of mouth is spreading. If that momentum continues then we could see American-like figures in the near future.

Comments online regarding Hulu have been less than kind recently due to their amazingly unpopular update last year. However, that still could end up working in the company’s favor. At that time, Hulu Japan became an independent entity from the American one, meaning that they could focus more deeply on the Japanese market.

Netflix seems more about content for U.S. audiences, despite the Americanized "Death Note" ironically playing better with Japanese viewers. If Hulu can use their home-field advantage and dig up some attractive Japanese-oriented original content, they may win this yet. It’s still very early in the game, so anything can happen.

Sources: President Online, My Game News Flash, Statista

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Hulu Japan to give all customers 1,000-yen apology for recent problems

-- Hulu Japan offers not just movies, but a little education and awesome customer service too

-- Amazon strikes down its Anime Strike video streaming service just before its first birthday

© SoraNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I'd just wish they'd stop stripping out subtitles that already exist in other markets for the Japanese market.

12 ( +12 / -0 )

I'd just wish they'd stop stripping out subtitles that already exist in other markets for the Japanese market.

THIS x a bazillion!

I hate that so much! There are JP TV shows/movies that I had in my queue from my US Netflix account that had English subs. But, when I go to watch in JP, the EN subs are not listed.

Conversely, very few EN-language titles in the US have JA subs available, even though the same titles have them when logging in from JP.

A partial solution for me has been using VPN servers. It enables me to log into Netflix "from the US" while in Japan, and "from Japan" while in the US. I originally subscribed to a VPN service, but Netflix, Amazon, etc are constantly finding ways to block them. So, I just put a physical server in each location, so I am actually logging in from my homes, using each local home's Internet provider and IP address.

As cool as that is, it doesn't solve the subtitle issue on many of the shows and movies, only the few that are available in the US.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I use whichever one has the least Japanese content.

Wouldn't it be smarter to use the one with the most English language content?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

No, the English content might be just as... "elitist".

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

The author is not very smart if he/she cancelled Amazon Prime after the trial (which he/she spelled "trail", btw).

At Y3900/yr, it's easily the best bargain I've run across in Japan. That's Y325/mo for streaming video, streaming music, and free 1 and 2-day shipping. Incredible. And, it has tons of content. It's annoying that in order to get the most content from US and JP, one must have two accounts. (I do need two accounts for the shipping to my homes, anyway. So, I'm not spending more than I would have.)

Is Netflix better? Of course. It has more and arguably better content. And, you only need one account. You get the country-specific content depending on where you log in from. (In my case, I can log in from the US, JP, or UK.) But, Amazon is easily my number 2.

I never cared for Hulu in the US, and Hulu JP even less due to its horrible interface on the Fire TV. For me, it has the least interesting programming, and, in the US, they show commercials! If I'm paying for a service, I shouldn't have to see commercials. (I can't remember if they showed CM's in Hulu Japan.)

For free JP content, there's also Abema TV, GYAO (Yahoo Japan), and YouTube.

I always smile when I see all those Tsutaya and GEO shops still selling DVD's and BD's. I wonder if I can FAX in my order?

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I'm sceptical of their methodology. I'm an Amazon Prime member in Japan but I have never used their (or any) streaming service. Have I been counted in the 56.9%?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Still fairly new to this although I have been binge-watching Netflix series in the last few months. Tried Hulu but didn't really find anything to my liking.

I love Netflix diverse and 'bold' programming; a few years ago, the idea of a us series in Spanish a la el chapo/narcos was almost unthinkable, same with euro and/or non anglo stuff (The Fall, Broadchurch, Iceland's awesome Trapped etc ).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

More subtitles - I miss out on so much of world cinema because of loss of subtitles.

I guess Netflix is probably the best service. Peaky Blinders, Happy Valley, The Expanse, Crazy Ex Girlfriend etc.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

goldorak: Will look for Trapped, as I like the other shows you mentioned. Thanks.

Toasted: Will also check out The Expanse. Thanks.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If you're a sci-fi fan, The Expanse is awesome. Altered Carbon, which just came out last week on Netflix is also great. I'm only half-way through, but I love it!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"show how far behind we still are"

"some with amusingly hard-to-pronounce names."

"given Japan’s overall on-demand video naivety"

I found the article sounded a bit condescending.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Amazon prime video is a great deal, no doubt about it. My biggest issue is that sometimes originally English TV shows have the English audio stripped out sometimes so only the Japanese audio is available (I've only seen it so far for children's shows, like Curious George for example).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I use Hikari, but it's become a poor service with too many reruns and repeats which is the problem caused by the providers

I use Hikari too, and I second that "poor service". It's gotten so bad it's now funny, with two different channels showing reruns of Law & Order. I don't even bother with the TV shows anymore, though I have to say, I have come to like many of the Brits crime shows (Morse).

NatGeo drives me up the wall with their constant "According to Alien Scientists" or whatever shows.

History Channel Japan will air hours and hours of JSDF propaganda crap that they probably don't have to pay for.

And I think one of the reasons they dumped Discovery is because of the Whale Wars program.

Hikari had some good cooking shows and Survivor and Amazing Race, yes, mindless TV. Now, all gone.

The Expanse is awesome

I tried Netflix but most is already on Hikari. The Expanse was good, better than most, and a hell of a lot better than NatGeo's Mars BS.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I was able to use a friend's Netflix account in Japan (with his permission and while he wasn't using it back home) and managed to finish off Black Mirror. I was quite pleased. It wasn't too expensive for my friend and there's a big variety. Subtitles in English, Korean and Japanese.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I was expecting it to be XVideos... lol

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Soft-on-demand: 100%

1 ( +1 / -0 )


HULU JP is absolute garbage (for expats)  but probably what the local folk want.

I heard that these companies are starting to crack down on VPN's. I don't use one and this kinda takes away that option now.

I just want to watch all English speaking content. But nobody offers that in Japan.

Is it such an unreasonable request? Why can't I watch HULU US?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

We use Netflix, got two sons outside the house and my wife on one TV, me on the computer, I pay about 1500 yen per month and everyone is happy.

Commercial Japanese TV sucks, and Netflix is a nice option!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

which is mind-boggling to me because after signing up for a trial version

Ugh, I immediately recognized the rocketnews writing, but here's my 2 cts.

For content, Netflix trumps all of them. I see Amazon has 1 or 2 good releases here and there but Netflix just bangs out killer shows on and on and on. AND even acquires older great tvshows which makes them top of the pack imo.

The only problem I have is the content/region restriction setting. Same as apple. Why cant they just remove this restriction and make everyone happy. I'm a VPN00b so I have no idea how that works.

Hulu? Will be gone within a year or 2. We will probably see Rakuten or DMM going into this business this year.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I had Hulu a few years ago then cancelled it when I got Netflix.

Netflix is way better.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Netflix can’t show every title in every country because of licensing restrictions. Those constraints are forced on Netflix by content producers. In reality, it is more than likely that Netflix would rather show all content everywhere. After all, that would make Netflix even more popular

There’s proof of this too - Netflix invests heavily in getting exclusive titles, and in creating its own content, like Stranger Things, Master of None, and Orange Is the New Black. That content belongs to Netflix and thus can show it in every country at the same time.

Nevertheless, there's always lists out there that let ya know which VPNs to use for Netflix or Hulu:



Or other ways around:


Get Your Own Private VPN IP Address

So, to stop getting locked out, just stop using shared VPNs. Instead, you should get your own unique IP address associated with your VPN. There are a number of ways you could do this:

Continue using a VPN service, but get a unique IP address: Some VPN services will offer a unique IP address to you for an additional fee.

Host your own VPN at home so you can watch while travelling internationally: You could host your own VPN on a router with a powerful third-party firmware like DD-WRT or OpenWRT, or you could do it on a dedicated home server. We’ve gone through the instructions for both in this guide.

Host your own VPN on a hosting service: If your home doesn’t provide enough upload bandwidth, you could use install a VPN server on a web-hosting service. Any web hosting service will do if you know what you’re doing and can set up VPN server software yourself

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I can just imagine the little old men in black suits at NHK toiling over how to get their subscription fees out of streamed movies. Once they told me I had to pay bevause I watched DVDs. I just laughed at them and closed the door.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If torrents is your thing then just choose NURO for 2Gbps unlimited unthrottled DL&UL

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Watched the BBC on this one but now BBC requires you to be registered and probably give an UK address which is probably easy but I haven't done that.

You have to be registered to use iPlayer, and you also have to have a TV licence. It hasn't happened yet but from later this year you will have to prove you have a TV licence to use BBC iPlayer - the address and licence number must match up. Which is fair enough. Also iPlayer has got very good at detecting proxies and VPNs, you find after a while it doesn't work anymore as you have been blocked.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If BBC streamed their content I would happily pay the license fee even though I live in Japan.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I think will be difficult to check the license address situation 100% and could just ask a relative for their details.

Yes, of course and I'm sure that's what many people will do, but it will still block a huge number of people who don't know anyone in the UK.

As for people abroad paying for iPlayer, it isn't possible due to rights issues. Why would overseas broadcasters pay for BBC programmes when anyone can stream them?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There's other reasons to get Amazon Prime besides streaming like unlimited music, or if your a book worm, there's books you can download from their site, but the best thing about Amazon Prime is the two free shipping on your orders you can also preorder items like DVD's and video games and get them on day one free of shipping costs and let me tell anytime I've ordered from them they've never been late once.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Sure, Amazon may not be as good as Netflix, but the price is so much cheaper. The yearly subscription can just be paid as an afterthought and there are enough interesting shows on it to make it worthwhile, with shows like Mr. Robot, Law & Order, McMafia, Startup, etc. exclusive to the service.

I notice that Amazon Prime also has a ton of Japanese-original programming with famous actors and comedians and all that. I don't really watch them but I can see why Japanese consumers would be more interested in those shows instead of junk like Netflix's Terrace House and Underwear. Maybe people who want to watch English shows will like other services more, but for the typical Japanese user who likes broadcast TV, Amazon Prime has a lot more originals to offer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I have Netflix, Hulu and Prime memberships... all of which my Japanese family claim are silly... and yet they all still use my accounts whenever they can lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The BBC could provide a subscription service for its iPlayer, just like it does with its BBC World service. Even a UK based person with a licence can't use the iPlayer while on holiday, say in Spain or outside of the UK without a van.

They did trial something like this a couple of years ago but It did't work out, due to the aforementioned rights issues. So many popular programmes were blocked in many territories it wan't worth the effort, and very few wanted to pay for a service that was mostly archive programming. It's not going to happen unless the BBC stops selling programmes to foreign broadcasters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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