2015 New Year Message to Employees from President Shinichi Yoshida (Summary)

January 5th, 2015

Happy New Year. I would like to extend my good wishes for a happy new year to the employees and executives of the Asahi Group and to all those working with us on this premises. New Years is the season when we all face the future and vow to make progress. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about my thoughts on the future of TV Asahi.

It is now half a year since I have assumed this position, a position with heavy responsibilities. And all this while, to a newcomer who came to TV Asahi from the outside, there has been one gquestionh or enigma that was always present in my mind and did not go away. The question is, gWhat was the true ignition point of TV Asahifs great gbreakthroughh? gWhat was the veritable source of the great gbreakthroughh?
The gbreakthroughh of TV Asahi, in these ten or more years, has already become a legend. As the senior members know well, up to around the 40th anniversary of its launch, TV Asahi was called the gperennial 4th placeh station and seemed to accept this situation. However, around the beginning of the 21st century, things turned around and TV Asahi started to achieve results that were gfirst time since its launchh and acquired competitiveness. The top rating in golden time and prime-time slots in the fiscal years 2012 and 2013 are symbolic of this change.

When we look at the history of TV Asahi, the turning point towards the breakthrough seems to be the great success of the gFINA World Championship 2001h, a large-scale sports event that TV Asahi acquired for the first time. The event was recorded as an all-out effort involving the entire company that took away its vertical segmentation of the Programming, News, Sports, Sales, Operations & Engineering Divisions and even succeeded in involving Divisions that were only involved in an indirect way such as the Administration Division.
The excitement and energy generated by the event was handed down to an even bigger and more challenging sports event, the gAFC Asian Cuph . The momentum created by these events led on to successful special dramas that created new developments in our drama productions, and even further onto a creation of an innovative experimental incubation midnight slot starting from 23:00 that paved the way for a major transformation of our variety shows. In the year 2000, TV Asahi went public and our shares were listed on the stock market, and the new headquarters building was completed in 2003. Such corporate milestones must have given positive mindset to everyone working for TV Asahi creating brighter and more cheerful corporate atmosphere, which in turn changed the company for the better and ignited its virtuous cycle.

But what had made TV Asahi, the gperennial 4th placeh station, to become so passionate about the gFINA World Championshiph at that time and how did this passion manage to spread throughout the company? Those are what I wanted to know the most. Since I joined TV Asahi, I looked up documents in my spare time and talked with the members who were at the center of this breakthrough during this period such as Chairman Hayakawa who has been helming the company. What surfaced was that it was the feeling of imminent crisis about the future shared by a part of the young and the middle management members that supported the breakthrough of TV Asahi. Some called it an urge arising from impatience and frustration.

Looking back at this period, dramatic changes in the economic structure had started and we had entered an era when even mega banks could not be called stable due to the financial crisis. The IT revolution, too, had already started then. But in the midst of all these changes, days were passing without major challenges or revolutions. A member who was holding a middle management role in those days told me that he thought, gIf we continue like this, the stations that can survive will be only the top or may be up to the second. I thought TV Asahi wonft be able to survive.h The group of young members who believed that gwe have to go out there and winh persuaded the executives to acquire gFINA World Championshiph and after the acquisition they had devoted themselves passionately to the success of this event for several years. In the Programming Division, the young and the middle-management members had gotten together and held training camps in Hakone to carry out heated debates on what was at the bottom of the stagnation of TV Asahi, and what were the challenges that the company should overcome. This flow led to the gCompany Wide Reformh starting in 2002 and the specific goals of the reform were not set by the top but came up one by one from production site. At the time, I heard that the young members had strong doubts about the management about whether they really wanted to go through with the reform or not. Previous reform plans had failed many times as the best-laid plans. Ifve heard that the young members demanded to talk to the president directly and direct debates were held between the top management of the time and the young members.

What we should not overlook is the fact that the management of the time faced this feeling of crisis and the active gbottom uph movement squarely without looking away. Within the company there were those who were skeptic about the gFINA World Championshiph and there were many critical or cautious opinions within the company such as gItfs impossible to succeedh or gIt will be difficulth. But the management trusted the instinctive determination of the production site and decided on a large scale investment and managed this company-wide project. gGo ahead and try it out. But we want each of you to be responsible and give your utmost best.h Ifve heard that the management of the time had given spurs to the middle management and young members with those words. I was very much impressed by such attitude and commitment of the management.

Well, today, it is not only my personal interest that I looked back on the source of the gbreakthroughh of TV Asahi, it is because I myself feel that now is the time for all of us to focus on this source of the gbreakthroughh once again and ponder upon it all together.

Last year was a milestone year for TV Asahi, as we celebrated the 55th anniversary of the launch of the station, and made the transition to a holding company structure. In April, 2014, the new management plan, gDigital 5 Vision Second Stageh has started and a challenge at a totally new dimension has begun. But the rival stations are stronger than we anticipated. New heavy challenges such as the internet distribution and 4K and 8K have rapidly immerged as well. And more than anything else, the market, the consumers and viewers are changing at an alarming speed. What we learned last year was that it is no easy feat to be at the top in a stable manner either in audience ratings or in sales. This means that we need to make even more efforts and contribute ingenious ideas that has new additional attractions and burst a new passion within us to achieve the goals set in gthe Second Stageh . More than a decade ago, the young and middle-management members at the production site began to have doubts about gwhether wefll be able to survive this battle if we remain as we areh. If I may dare say so, I think this sense of uncertainty that surrounds TV Asahi has not changed much and remains the same.

The reform and gbreakthroughh of TV Asahi of this past decade or so is highly evaluated by economists. But why? There are many companies that carry out reforms when the management faces a crisis. But our company made its first step towards reform when the company was still at its growing stage, and the first step was dared by the crisis awareness of the young members of the company. In other words, it carried out a pre-emptive reform facing the crisis of the future, and we have executed a gReform at Peacetimeh/gA Challenge in Ordinary Timesh and succeeded.

I believe that this acute awareness of the time by the young and the management at the time of the breakthrough and the power of the gbottom-uph actions coming from the voices and actions at the production sites are the source of the power and its innate DNA of TV Asahi and its group companies. This bottom-up system has been continuously present and lively in action in dealing with the Lehman crash and drawing up of our new management plans.

This year, it seems highly probable that there will be a great media upheaval such as a further challenge into the Internet media. I feel that every member of the TV Asahi group should once again remember the source of the gbreakthroughh of TV Asahi, and throw down the gauntlet by executing a gReform at Peacetimeh/gChallenge in Ordinary Timesh once again. I am happy to know we were top in golden-time and prime-time audience ratings in the first three days of the New Year. I sincerely hope that all of you, the young members included, gather up your courage and make this year as a year to take the first step into yet-undiscovered land. Of course, we, the management also intend to take on the challenges brought about by the changes, with our eye steadily on the changing times. We are prepared to take on the various challenges that may come our way head on just like the management did more than a decade ago. So let us create a new year that opens up a new page for TV Asahi and the Asahi group together joining our forces.

In closing my New Yearfs message, I sincerely wish that this year will be a year filled with hope and good health for you and your family.

*the audience ratings are from Video Research Kanto Area data