In Japan on November 2nd, three former members of SMAP (Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, Shingo Katori) hosted a program called 72 Hours Honne TV (Truth TV), a non-stop three day live broadcast variety show on Abema TV, a video streaming channel operated by CyberAgent, one of Japan's biggest internet media businesses. The show has caused a sensation in Japan.
SMAP was originally signed to Johnny & Associates, one of the most powerful talent agencies in Japanese entertainment. Such is its influence, it is said that if you leave the agency you’ll struggle to find work in terrestrial TV ever again. That is why SMAP's two leading members, Takuya Kimura and Masahiro Nakai, actually stayed on with agency to pursue their solo careers even after SMAP disbanded.
Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi and Shingo Katori hooked up with their beloved former manager, Michi Iijima, who had been forced out of the agency when the three of them had left. Together they defied the conventions and innate conservatism of the entertainment industry by streaming over the internet and by using SNS for three days non-stop via 72 Hours Truth TV.
This is an unprecedented media experiment. It is causing a stir within the entertainment business, and looks to have created a buzz amongst everyone in Japan, not just the fans of the three men themselves. People have been following their updates live on Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, and Blog. They repost and share messages, swap opinions, and avidly watch the live video itself. The momentum behind this phenomenon and its related memes appears unstoppable.
Up till now there has been a lag in the uptake of new media between the “tech savvy” generation and everyone else. However, we are now witnessing a turning point, with the former members of SMAP at the forefront of a transition from old media to new media. Oddly enough, this is all going on at the same time as a new manga-themed movie starring Takuya Kimura, another ex-SMAP member who has gone down a new career path, is screening all over America.
We sense there are interesting times ahead for the Japanese content business. The Japanese entertainment industry is bound by a variety of conventions and cultural ties which are difficult to break free of. Now, however, it may be Japanese TV and movie content’s turn to do so. Japanese manga and animation have already broken away from the confines of the domestic market and taken off internationally. It is only a matter of time before other types of Japanese content do the same.
There are two new things that ex SMAP are able to do on TV:
2. Fans are allowed to take pictures while live show.
... However, now they are not allowed to sing SMAP songs, mention about Johnnys, SMAP, Takuya Kimura and Masahiro Nakai. It might take another 20 years to be able to freely gather and sing. Their fight without honor will continue.