Erika Engle

Thursday, January 29, 2004

KIKU, JN Productions
partnership to downsize

A gasp is an uncommon response to a news release, but a release bearing the words "JN Productions, KIKU-TV to end partnership," caused just such a reaction.

The entities have been deeply dovetailed for decades.

In 1993 JN Productions Inc. and KIKU parent company, now California-based Asian Media Group, signed an agreement in which JN would secure and manage the station's prime-time Japanese language programming and provide English subtitles for the shows.

JN President Joanne Ninomiya also personally handled sales for many of KIKU's long time advertisers, such as Central Pacific Bank.

JN will continue to provide subtitles, but at the end of the month it will no longer provide programming, its more lucrative function.

"We're continuing our relationship, but we're revising it," said KIKU General Manager Phyllis Kihara.

"We are bringing some of the functions in-house to the station, which is what a station should do to operate more efficiently and be more of a full-service television station."

Staff will be added, but needs are still being assessed, she said.

"Our No. 1 commitment is to keep Japanese programming on the air in Hawaii and to provide a vehicle for Japanese programming to our viewers," Kihara said. The changeover "should be seamless to the viewers."

Asian Media Group owns KSCI-TV in Los Angeles. AMG's predecessor, International Media Group, purchased KIKU in 1989 and claims to have introduced the international programming format to Hawaii, the nation's fourth-largest Asian American market, according to

Ninomiya's connection to Japanese programming in Hawaii dates back to 1979 or 1980 at the original KIKU, then at channel 13 on the dial. That station is now KHNL. The KIKU call letters replaced KHAI in 1993. On the dial it is found at UHF channel 20, Oceanic channel 9 or digital 89 or Craig TV channel 10.

The station's ratings and advertising strength is among adults 35 and older. In the 50-plus category, KIKU ranks second in prime time, between 7 and 10 p.m., while among adults 35 and older, it is ranked No. 4, Kihara said.

Long time advertising client Central Pacific Bank now airs a version of its 50th anniversary commercial, featuring Hawaii-bred Hollywood actor James Shigeta speaking Japanese, on KIKU and other Japanese language channels in Hawaii. It is reminiscent of the 1982 "art of service" campaign Shigeta did for the bank, said Wayne Kirihara, the bank's senior vice president and marketing director.

"We are very interested to see what the vision and plans are with the management and to see what kind of plans they have for the programming. We hope to continue to support Japanese programming in Hawaii," he said.

Former KIKU General Manager Gregg Mueller left the station in October, but echoed Kirihara's sentiments.

"I have an understanding of the programming, of the market and so forth and I'm very concerned about it." He and Ninomiya worked together at the original KIKU, circa 1980.

JN was prepared for the drop in its revenue stream, Ninomiya said.

"We had to venture elsewhere to protect ourselves in case something like this happens," she said.

Five years ago JN expanded its translation work and it has paid off.

"We've been doing a lot of translations for the major distributors of animation and Japanese pop culture," she said.

"We're preparing DVD sales for a company in San Francisco that's owned by a big publishing house (Shogakukan) in Japan. JN's other clientele for translation and other production work include Japan-based TV Asahi and Tokyo Broadcasting Corp. and San Francisco-based Viz LLC, a leading U.S. publisher of Japanese animation (anime) and comics (manga).

"We're doing the preparation for the U.S. market. That is becoming a major part of our business," she said. "This is going to be a big market. I'm glad we started early."

JN Productions has translated a TV Asahi show called "Doraemon" into English for translation into the native tongues of Italy and France where "the show is doing really well," she said.

"To take it a step further, we also time the segments for them so that it's very user-friendly."

When the shows arrive in a new country, local translators know they will have four seconds to drop in the phrase in their native tongue, she said.

JN's local clients include Daiei, Sony Hawaii, Estee Lauder Travel Retailing and Shirokiya.

Video production is also a significant part of JN's business. "You know when you go to these conventions or gatherings, people always do some kind of video presentation these days."

"We'll be okay, and we'll be working really hard to expand on these other areas," she said.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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