A Real Success, Without a Doubt

Nippon TV’s new gem in Formats is a Gen Z!

Taking Formats to the next level & bringing young eyeballs back to the screen!

A new element has been a long time coming, as formats hit a plateau, and platform after platform churn out similar singing competitions, and game shows.

Enter Hiroki Asanuma. This young creative director, with the support of Nippon TV, has single-handedly brought back young eyeballs to the traditional screen, against the inexorable trend of TV bleeding millennials and Gen Zs.

This certainly reinforces K7 Media’s recent report, where Japan was named its “Rising Market of the Year”, as the number of new launches for formats originating in that territory have doubled year-on-year.

Hiroki’s secret sauce in his successful new gameshow format? FEAR.

Hiroki Asanuma
Creative Director
Dark Doubt

In Japan, Hiroki noticed that all the current prime time shows – including international programmes – do not have a game show that featured the element of fear. “It was that one thing that was missing in TV shows – the fear factor,” said Hiroki.

By adding a healthy spoonful of terror, with a dash of anxiety and a pinch of fright, Hiroki’s format, Dark Doubt, upon airing, captured over 35% of viewer share of boys and girls 4—12 years old, along with over 31% viewer share of women 20—34 and almost 30% viewer share of men from the same age group.

Dark Doubt, where an escape game show meets pitch-black horror, is won by elimination. Everything takes place in complete darkness, where 7 participants go through 4 stages of competition. At the end of each stage, one person must be eliminated, a decision shared by the very same 7 participants. “What is important is that we don’t want it to be a violent show – we want it to be portrayed as a collaborative show. So, even if you have to vote someone off, that person is praised,” Hiroki added.

The added stickiness of this format offers viewers the addictive play of the uncomfortable necessity of cooperation and friendship against having to let someone go in the end.

“It’s that which attracts people,” Hiroki noted. “For example, in a dating reality show, when you see the dark or ugly side of the person, this is what keeps people watching.”

Hiroki is excited, Dark Doubt being “absolutely the first” success he has experienced, and this has given him ever more determination to make Season 2 even better.

“I didn’t intend to create this format for international audiences, it was just for the Japanese audience,” Hiroki explained, expressing his elation when Dar Doubt was chosen to travel with Nippon TV to Cannes. Here, Hiroki quickly understood the universality of certain themes. “If it works for the Japanese audience, it will work for the international audience as well.”

What was the spark of this idea?

“I travelled a lot in my youth, and each time I visited an amusement park anywhere in the world, there was always a scary house,” Hiroki observed. “In an entertainment park, there’s always some small corner that is dark and scary and it excites people.”

When Dark Doubt aired, initial viewers were active online, discussing the show and guessing if a character was bad or good. The hike in activity caught on like wildfire and more people tuned in to watch the show. Hiroki added that the show quickly started trending and there was no turning back. To date, Dark Doubt is also on various top platforms across Japan.

Season 2

With the first season being a huge success, fans are holding their breath for Season 2.

“I’d like to take it to bigger scale,” Hiroki enthused. “I have so many more ideas that I couldn’t put into Season 1. For example, this was in the studio, but maybe next time I could take it to a real extravagant castle.”

And that’s just the tip of Hiroki’s ideas.

But now that Hiroki has unlocked the door to the next level of formats, what will happen next? Will there be sudden replicas of his format?

“I’m not worried at all (about being copied) … I love being creative, and I think I’ve become a good role model because I’m still young and have many years ahead of me. My idea has started to catch the attention of the international world. I have had a lot of meetings, and everybody loves my idea. So, I’m not scared that people will copy my idea.”

Words of a confident, upcoming rockstar of the Formats world, no doubt.