Type of site
|OTT streaming platform|
|Headquarters||Kamiōsaki, Shinagawa, Tokyo, |
|Subsidiaries||Culture Next Productions (joint venture)|
|Users|| 2.85 million|
(Paravi: 0.85 million)
|Launched||2007(as Gyao Next)|
U-Next (ユーネクスト, Yū-Nekusuto, often stylized as U-NEXT) is a Japanese over-the-top streaming service majority-owned by Usen-Next Holdings and minority-owned by TBS Holdings. The service is a wide variety of content including movies, TV shows, anime, e-books, and live sports. It was launched in 2007 as Gyao Next and has since grown to become one of the largest streaming platforms in Japan, with 3.85 million registered subscribers.
U-Next was the second highest-grossing subscription video service in Japan as of 2022.
In June 2006, Usen began a project to investigate the possibility of watching Gyao, an advertising-supported video on demand (AVOD) service for PCs owned by the company, on television. Gyao, which was later operated by Yahoo! Japan and terminated its services in 2023, was one of the most influential platforms in Japan's online video distribution market at the time.
On February 1, 2007, Usen started selling Gyao Plus, a set-top box that allowed users to watch Gyao on their televisions. At the time, the set-top box had internet connectivity, but could only be used to watch Gyao.
In June 2008, the price was reduced from ¥3,900/month to ¥2,980/month with the same content plus additional content such as all professional baseball games of the Pacific League and a number of karaoke songs.
On April 7, 2009, Yahoo! Japan announced that it would acquire 51% of the shares of Gyao, which had been a wholly owned subsidiary of Usen, from Usen for 529 million yen, making it a subsidiary. The acquisition was aimed at building the largest video platform in Japan by integrating it with Yahoo! Video, which is owned by Yahoo! Japan. Gyao Next, however, was not part of the deal.
On December 1, 2009, Gyao Next was renamed U-Next. The "U" includes the meanings of "United" and "Universe" as well as Usen. This business was transferred from Usen to its subsidiary U-Next Co., Ltd. in December 2010. U-Next Co., Ltd. was spun off from Usen as a private company of Yasuhide Uno, who was the president of Usen.
In April 2009, the service began offering music broadcasting (Usen on Flet's) from Usen, a cable broadcasting service. And in September 2009, the number of subscribers exceeded 100,000. As of November 2009, the service included approximately 25,000 videos (including 12,000 PPV videos), 15,000 karaoke videos, 9 channels, and 504 Usen music broadcast channels. As of July 2010, more than 50,000 titles had been distributed, including terrestrial broadcast dramas and missed anime broadcasts. U-Next was available by July 2010 on select models of Sony's Bravia, Sharp's Aquos, Toshiba's Regza, Hitachi's Wooo, Panasonic's Viera, and LG's Smart TV.
In November 2013, the company announced a content partnership with 20th Century Fox to distribute more than 150 films.
In 2014, the service supported streaming by the iPhone, iPad, Android phones/tablets, AirPlay, and Chromecast. The following year, Dolby Audio (Dolby Digital Plus) was adopted to deliver 7.1 channels.
The e-book service was launched in April 2014 with the BookPlace for U-Next app and integrated with the video service in 2019. Also in the same year, U-Next partnered with theater chain T-Joy to allow movie tickets to be purchased by U-Next points; in 2016, it formed similar partnerships with Shochiku Multiplex Theaters and United Cinemas; and in 2017, with Tokyu Recreation. In 2022, they also partnered with Toho Cinemas, the only remaining major theater chain.
On December 16, 2014, U-Next was listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers. In 2015, the company changed its listing to the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
In February 2017, U-Next announced that it would conduct a tender offer for shares of Usen and integrate its operations. The company shifted to a holding company structure, with each business of U-Next and Usen placed as subsidiaries under the umbrella of the holding company Usen-Next Holdings.
In July 2020, U-Next acquired the anime-focused video streaming service Anime Hōdai through absorption-type split from SoftBank for 2.5 billion yen. Meanwhile, U-Next had been operating Anime Hōdai since 2015 before the acquisition.
In 2020, it was announced that the service had surpassed 2 million members as of August.
In March 2021, U-Next announced a partnership with WarnerMedia to exclusively distribute 199 HBO and HBO Max original productions in Japan by 2023. The company also announced plans to further strengthen its partnership agreement with Warner Bros. Discovery by distributing 332 of those productions in 2023.
According to a survey by Gem Partners, the market share of Japan's subscription-based video streaming services based on revenue in 2022 shows that U-Next, which ranked third the previous year, has overtaken Amazon Prime Video with a share of 12.6%, making it the second-largest player behind Netflix, which holds a 22.3% market share.
On February 17, 2023, U-Next announced its merger with Premium Platform Japan, which operates the subscription video streaming service Paravi with 0.85 million subscribers and is owned by TBS Television and TV Tokyo. The merger will take effect on March 31, with U-Next being the surviving company. On the same day, U-Next also announced business partnerships with TBS Holdings, TBS Television, and TV Tokyo to establish collaborative content procurement and mass-market promotion. Additionally, U-Next entered into business partnerships with Dentsu. and Hakuhodo DY Media Partners to utilize the video distribution platform for advertising and other related businesses. On March 31, the merger was completed, and the following day, TBS Holdings and Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, acquired U-Next's shares.
On March 3, Yasuharu Uno, the President of Usen-Next Holdings, expressed his desire to increase U-Next's subscribers to 10 million and stated that he wants to "surpass Netflix." He mentioned that he hopes to reach this goal "in 5 to 10 years." He also stated, "Strong companies are those that compete globally. We want to cooperate with other domestic players," indicating that the company will explore possibilities for collaboration with other companies in the future.
On June 29, U-Next announced that it had conducted a third-party allotment of shares to TBS Holdings, raising approximately 24.3 billion yen in funding. This resulted in TBS Holdings' ownership stake increasing from 2.25% to 20%, and U-Next became an equity method affiliate company of TBS Holdings.
On June 30, the integration of Paravi into U-Next was completed. As a result, approximately 10,000 drama series and variety programs owned by Paravi, including those from TBS and TV Tokyo, became available for viewing on U-Next. As a result, with the combined figures, the total revenue exceeded 800 billion yen, there were 3.7 million paid subscribers, and a library of 350,000 titles. This positioned the merged service as the second-largest video streaming service in the Japanese market, following Netflix, in terms of total revenue, paid subscribers, and title count.
On March 28, 2023, U-Next announced a partnership agreement with Live Sports Media Inc to offer the SPOTV Now service within their platform. Starting from the same day, where U-Next subscribers can access the content provided by SPOTV Now by adding the SPOTV Now Pack to their subscription where would allow subscribers to watch live broadcasts of matches from domestic women's top leagues where U-Next introduced the SPOTV Now Pack at a monthly price of 1,200 yen.
On June 21, 2023, U-Next announced that it has signed a partnership agreement to become the official streaming partner for La Liga for the 2023-2024 season and the following five seasons, Copa del Rey, and Supercopa de España, in Japan. The announcement stated that U-Next they would livestream all 380 league matches in full HD, along with the playoffs consisting of six matches.
The distributors who license content to U-Next include Warner Bros. Discovery, NBCUniversal, Paramount Global, TBS Television, and TV Tokyo, among others.
In addition, NHK On Demand and SPOTV Now channel services are available for separate purchase through the U-Next platform.
Manga and magazines from publishers such as Shogakukan, Kodansha, Shueisha, Kadokawa, Shufu no Tomo, Takarajimasha, and Shinchosha are available for streaming. Over 10,000 manga titles and more than 180 magazine titles are available for free. In addition, popular manga magazines like Weekly Shōnen Magazine, Weekly Shōnen Jump, Weekly Young Jump, and Weekly Shōnen Champion can be purchased separately for reading.
In November 2022, U-next launched an original comic label called "U-next Comic". The label is further divided into three sub-labels.
U-Next is streaming all UFC events, Glory kickboxing, Bellator MMA, and PGA Tour events.
Starting from April 2023, U-Next has signed a multi-year domestic distribution partnership agreement with Ultimate Fighting Championship. They have announced that they will live stream all UFC events, including UFC Number Series, UFC Fight Night, and Road to UFC.
U-Next has exclusive live streaming rights for 33 PGA Tour events during the 2022-2023 season.
Members can watch the Premier League, Scottish Premiership, Serie A, and Major League Baseball through SPOTV Now by using points to purchase access for viewing.
Subscribers who are 18 years old and above can access the H-Next service, which includes pornographic video content that can be viewed on video.hnext.jp, exclusively on the web and not on smartphone apps or other devices.
Tokyo Broadcasting System Holdings, Nikkei, TV Tokyo Holdings, Wowow, Dentsu, and Hakuhodo DY Media Partners jointly established Premium Platform Japan in July 2017. On December 25, 2017, PPJ announced that the service, which would start in April of the following year, would be called Paravi, a coined word combining "Para," meaning "close" in Greek, and "Vision."On March 7, 2018, PPJ announced that Paravi would be launched on April 1, and began accepting advance registrations on March 20.
On April 1, Paravi was launched, offering approximately 8,000 contents, including programs from TBS Television and TV Tokyo, at a monthly fee of 999 yen. President Yasuhiro Takatsuna said, "Our strengths are the largest domestic drama archive and live streaming. We will add 50 new titles every day and be able to offer more than 10,000 contents soon."
On September 6, 2018, Wowow announced through Paravi that they would begin 24-hour internet streaming of their BS channels, "Wowow Prime," "Wowow Live," and "Wowow Cinema," starting December 1. To watch the programs, it was necessary to be an existing member of Wowow, and it was not possible to contract only for internet streaming.
In 2018, Paravi produced its first original drama series called Tourist which consisted of three episodes. The first episode was aired on TBS on September 28. The second episode was broadcast on TV Tokyo on October 1, and the third episode was shown on Wowow (for free) on October 7. After each episode was aired, an exclusive version, including unreleased scenes, was streamed on Paravi.
On February 18, 2019, a Paravi Wowow Plan was offered through Paravi, which allowed internet only subscription to Wowow and simultaneous viewing of Wowow's three channels. The monthly fee was the same as Wowow's regular membership fee, which was 2,300 yen, and it was not necessary to subscribe to Paravi to use the plan. However, on June 31, 2021, Wowow launched its own video-on-demand service, Wowow On Demand, and the Paravi Wowow Plan was discontinued.
On March 12, 2020, Paravi started offering free streaming of dramas and anime as a response to school closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The free streaming continued until March 31 of the same year.
Since 2020, Paravi has started live streaming all games of the Nippon Professional Baseball matches hosted by Yokohama DeNA BayStars, and continues to stream them as of 2023.
On February 17, 2023, PPJ announced that it would merge with U-Next on March 31. Paravi was scheduled to transfer its service to U-Next by July and its content can be viewed on U-Next's monthly plan thereafter.
At U-Next, there are points that can be used for various services, with 1 point equaling 1 yen. Paid members are able to receive 1,200 points on the first day of every month.
The points can be used to purchase various services, including videos and e-books that are available for a fee, as well as NHK On Demand and SPOTV Now channel services. In addition, it is possible to purchase movie tickets from major theater chains in Japan using the points.