Japanese companies to develop e-distribution platform

Four of the biggest names in Japanese consumer electronics announced plans Monday to jointly develop an electronic distribution platform for digital broadcasting services.

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd. (better known by its Panasonic brand name), Toshiba Corp., Sony Corp. and Hitachi Ltd. said they would form a joint venture, EPF Network Corp., in November. The new company will work on standardizing a platform for interactive broadcasting through which additional content can be delivered, stored and later accessed by other consumer electronics devices, they said in a statement.

More concrete details of the services planned are not available, although the e-platform system could be used for distribution of content such as computer files, music or other data. The system is also likely to define how data is stored in set top boxes or home servers so that other devices can access the data.

Matsushita and Toshiba will each own 25 per cent of the company while Sony and Hitachi hold 10 per cent each. The remaining 30 per cent will be held equally by ten additional companies, including all of Japan’s major commercial broadcasters and others: Asahi National Broadcasting Co. Ltd., Dentsu Inc., Fuji Television Network Inc., Japan Satellite Broadcasting Inc. (better known as WOWOW), Nippon Television Network Corporation, SKY Perfect Communications Inc., Sumitomo Corp., Television Tokyo Channel 12 Ltd., Tokyo Broadcasting Systems Inc. and Tohokushinsha Film Corp.

The companies also announced Monday plans to launch a broadcast content venture, E-Port Channel Corporation. The company will develop digital content for broadcast via a soon-to-be launched direct-to-home digital satellite service and will start operations as soon as a license has been granted, possibly in January 2001, the statement said. The company would be owned jointly by Matsushita (38.75 per cent), Toshiba (38.75 per cent), Sony (4.5 per cent), Hitachi (4.5 per cent), Japan Satellite/WOWOW (4.5 per cent), SKY Perfect (three percent), Dentsu (three per cent), Sumitomo (two per cent) and Tohokushinsha Film (one per cent).

Matsushita Electric Industrial, in Osaka, can be contacted at http://www.mei.co.jp/. Toshiba, in Tokyo, can be contacted at http://www.toshiba.co.jp/. Sony, in Tokyo, can be contacted at http://www.sony.co.jp/. Hitachi, in Tokyo, can be contacted at http://www.hitachi.co.jp/.