New deal for SASUKE / Ninja Warrior production in Arabic-speaking region announced in Cannes
Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. (TBS) and His Royal Highness Prince Faisal bin Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, Chairman of Banader Gulf Company, of Saudi Arabia have signed a contract granting the latter party the exclusive right to use TBS’s sports entertainment SASUKE (also known globally as Ninja Warrior) format in 17 countries and to produce locally a program based on the format. In May, when Prince Faisal visited Japan, the two parties signed a memorandum of understanding but they have now given the project the official green light. The announcement was made on the 1st day of International TV Festival MIPCOM in Cannes.
In addition to the right to create a local SASUKE production, the contract grants the right to broadcast Ninja Warrior, American Ninja Warrior, and other programs in the SASUKE family in 17 countries: Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Kuwait, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia and Sudan. This agreement will bring SASUKE content from around the world to these countries while encouraging the development of further exciting SASUKE productions.
With the purpose of signing the memorandum of understanding, Prince Faisal visited Japan in May. The visit of a member of a royal family to sign a contract for a television program is a rare event in Japanese history. Based in Dubai and one of the largest broadcasters in the Middle East, the Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC) began broadcasting SASUKE/Ninja Warrior in 2010, helping to build the high popularity of the program in the region. A big fan of the SASUKE family of programs, Prince Faisal has watched all episodes of the original SASUKE/Ninja Warrior shows and knows the names of the ‘SASUKE All Stars’ and the final standings in each competition. During his visit to Japan, Prince Faisal even visited Midoriyama Studio to watch the shooting of SASUKE, greatly enjoying the competition. Moreover, Prince Faisal's team with backgrounds in planning, production, marketing and legal affairs, involved in the planning of the SASUKE production for the 17 countries visited Manchester, England, at the end of March to observe the shooting of the new Ninja Warrior UK. With the signing of the formal contract, they are bound to become even busier working on their program, which bears the tentative title Arabian Ninja Warrior.
This year, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan, Japan received His Royal Highness King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (at the time, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia) as an official guest and the two countries agreed to cooperate in the celebration of the anniversary. The website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan reports that a variety of activities will be undertaken to advance the mutual understanding and cooperation of the two countries and strengthen their partnership in a comprehensive manner. At the same time, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry “promotes overseas advancement of an internationally appreciated ‘Cool Japan’ brand, cultivation of creative industries, promotion of these industries in Japan and abroad, and other related initiatives from cross-industry and cross-government standpoints” (METI website). As TBS looks forward to the 60th anniversary of its own founding this year, it is proud as a Japanese broadcaster to be working with Saudi Arabia's Banader Gulf Company under the direct management of Prince Faisal to promote Japanese content throughout the Arabic-speaking region in an epoch-making project with few antecedents in Japanese history.
"We are very excited about bringing this very successful program to the Arabic world at a time when fitness is a priority to the governments and people in our region", Prince Faisal said. "And with the year being the 60th anniversary of the start of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Japan, it seems especially poignant that we are embarking on this project with the help of TBS." TBS’s Media Business Division President Masashi Nakao said “It’s such an honor to learn about Prince Faisal being a royal fan of our program. We are very happy that we have reached this agreement with Banader Gulf Company as it is a giant step forward to realize the locally produced version in the region.”
To date, there have been nine SASUKE productions outside Japan: in the US, Malaysia, Singapore, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, Vietnam, China and Denmark. A contract has also been signed for a local production in Indonesia. Now, with a local production set to begin in the 17-country area, the SASUKE family keeps getting bigger and bigger!
■ About Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. (TBS)
With over 40 years of experience licensing programming overseas, Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. (TBS) has distributed programs of all genres – dramas, anime, documentaries, formats, movies – totaling several tens of thousands of hours of programming in over 160 countries worldwide and has firmly established its presence as a major content provider in the global arena. TBS is one of the most innovative broadcasters in creating variety formats, having licensed nearly 200 localized versions with several thousand episodes being produced including global hits like America’s Funniest Home Videos, Takeshi’s Castle/MXC, Sasuke/Ninja Warrior, etc. Looking ahead, TBS aims to further raise its profile overseas by expanding sales around the world of TBS hit shows and take advantage of new opportunities in the digital market place.