Tokyo gets sexy newsreaders on mobile

Japan's king of satellite TV smut now brings news clips read by anchors in bikinis to mobile phones...

There's an old saying: You can take the man out of sleaze but you can't take the sleaze out of the man.

Or something like that... As the founder of pioneering satellite raunch network Paradise TV seven years ago, Michiyuki Matsunaga has since moved on to Tokyo Digital News, a slightly less provocative broadcasting station that transmits stories via the Internet and mobile phones in which the announcers are young girls clad in bikinis.

Yes, the 58-year-old Matsunaga is more or less sticking to his smutty guns.

"This is similar to Paradise in that there were no adult variety channels in Japan when Paradise started," says the president of TDN.

"I want to create new content that nobody else is doing."

With the competition limited, Matsunaga is establishing a new genre.

His target is the same as in his Paradise days: lonely, shy guys. But with an added technology twist he hopes to make his service more interactive and appealing to his subscribers.

The premise is to provide instantly gratifying news bites of goofy topics that can be viewed on demand via the Internet or mobile phone screens through such providers as DoCoMo, AU, or Vodafone.

"We focus on strange, sexy news," says Matsunaga of his bikini-delivered newscasts.

"That is much more popular than political or economic topics."

The stories, which typically run for 30 seconds, might include: a high school teacher arrested for molestation on a commuter train; a female teacher fired for wearing clothing deemed to be too sexy; or a dog's abdominal surgery producing a pair of panties.

Matsunaga's 15,000 subscribers are paying 300 yen per month for unlimited downloads of the material.

Presentation is key to satisfying viewers. Polite Japanese expressions and cute poses are emphasised by the swimsuit anchors, primarily high school or college females looking for their big break in show business.

Training the girls is necessary. A former Nippon Television announcer gives each announcer voice and pronunciation lessons at the modest TDN studio (a pull-down blue tarp and camera) in Shinjuku, over the course of a few weeks.

"They'd like to be watched by lots of guys," Matsunaga explains of his budding journalists who provide three news programs each day.

"It is acceptable for them if they are sexy. That is the basic idea."

Thus far, Matsunaga has attracted 15,000 subscribers. With the mobile phone and service provider companies taking 55% of the revenue, that leaves TDN in the red.

But he is hopeful that TDN will turn a profit next year by adding subscribers.

"That is the biggest problem," says Matsunaga, who put up the initial 20 million yen in capital to get the venture going.

"For new customers, we are now searching for a vein of gold."

The akibakei, a term typically used to describe shy males who frequent Tokyo's computer geek paradise of Akihabara, is his target.

Understanding their likes and dislikes, Matsunaga says, will be the key in his search for riches.

"Akibakei are not too proud to choose unattractive girls," Matsunaga explains of his customers' tastes.

"At Paradise we had one girl who was called an akibakei-type girl. She didn't have a pretty face and was a little chubby but akibakei people loved her. They saw her as wholesome."

As a prime piece of his marketing strategy, Matsunaga has decided to give these nerds freedom of choice.

Through Internet voting, upcoming casters are selected with a few mouse clicks by the current fanbase. Mug shots of candidates in bikinis and cute smiles are posted for the voting public.

Hookups with providers Livedoor and Yahoo! BB resulted in 30,000 votes being cast through TDN for a dozen or so prospective news readers recently.

Machiuke gamen companies, which provide downloads of photos of famous actresses for mobile phone wallpaper, are TDN's biggest rivals.

Matsunaga sees the interactive nature of his service, which in addition to news coverage includes chat sessions with the girls as they eat lunch with friends or change clothes in the dressing room, as being his competitive edge.

Programs showing virgin deflowerings and lactating mothers, typical fare in his salad days at Paradise, are a thing of the past, claims Matsunaga.

But on the other hand it might be a while before a flower bikini, high heels, and microphone greets Prime Minister Koizumi at the steps of Yasukuni Shrine.

"They wouldn't be taken seriously," he responds to the idea conventional content could reach TDN's airwaves. "But perhaps someday."

In the meantime, Matsunaga would prefer to choose fantasy over politics and economics.

"Our plan is to create a virtual encounter for our customers," he says. "They want to experience communication with a beautiful, charming girl."