Sunday, June 15, 2014

NOTTV changes channel lineup, offers two free channels starting in July

ノッティー {nottī} ("notty") is NOTTV's mascot
Starting July 1st, NOTTV will change its digital broadcasting lineup, both in number of channels and accessibility. A big change is that in addition to one additional channel, two of the channels will become free. Currently, all three of the channels are premium by subscription only (¥400/month to get all channels, with the billing integrated into your phone bill).

The new channel line up will be:
  • nottv1: premium
  • nottv2: premium
  • nottv3: free view
  • nottv4: free view
The previous three channel lineup was:
  • nottv1: premium
  • nottv2: premium
  • nottv news: premium; 24 hour TBS Newsbird
NOTTV is a digital broadcasting network that is designed exclusively for Japanese Android "Galapagos" (ガラスマ {garasuma}) smart phones and tablets. Currently, it is available only on devices offered by NTT Docomo — probably because the company that runs it, mmbi, is a NTT Group company. Its broadcast range covers about 90% of Japan, including Okinawa. NOTTV became possible when analog television broadcasting stopped in Japan in 2011. It began offering service starting April, 2012.

ANDROID APP ON Google play
Sorry, NOTTV will never be on iPhone
NOTTV is not just software; it requires special hardware and a special antenna. Currently, it's available in about 30 of Docomo's phones and almost 10 of their tablet models. You can add and cancel your NOTTV service to/from your phone bill directly from the application (which includes an addable home screen widget)

NOTTV is similar to Japanese "1seg" (ワンセグ {wan segu}) technology in that it is broadcast digitally OTA using the VHF hi-band space used by regular televisions (which has excellent building wall penetration characteristics). This means that it shares the same telescoping antenna that most 1seg phones have. Unlike 1seg, which is a technology that uses "1 Segment" (out of 13) of a standard Japanese digital HDTV channel, NOTTV doesn't associate with traditional television channels. NOTTV uses a sub-spec of the Japanese digital television standard called ISDB-Tmm. The audio/video digital stream is encrypted MPEG4 AVC/H.264 based.

Like 1seg's XML based BML metadata that displays weather and programming and channel info, guide and other data is sent with the channel. The NOTTV app for Android integrates with both facebook and twitter, so live-tweeting (automatic nottv hashtags are added) of baseball and soccer and other sports is possible.

Japanese commuters with phones
Nobody reads paper anymore.
The big advantage of 1seg and NOTTV for Japanese commuters is it does not suffer from packet competition during congested times of the day (for example, during morning and evening commutes), meaning it can be watched on the train (providing your train is above ground) during rush hour when every mobile device in Japan is trying to receive data at the same time.

The big advantage that NOTTV has over the older 1seg technology is its superior resolution and frame rate: its current three channels broadcast at 720x480 progressively at 30fps. For its "shift-time" programming, it can go up to 1280x720 (but only at 15fps), which is almost ten times the resolution (and considered HDTV quality) of 1seg, which is 320x240 at 15fps.

1seg is a relatively old technology, and on today's high resolution phones, phablets, and tablets with large screens, the superior resolution of NOTTV is immediately noticeable. In addition, the natural frame rate of 30 per second makes watching action, such as sports, much more enjoyable. NOTTV looks good even on a 10 inch screen tablet.

There's a reason this show starts at midnight on Fridays;
it's not because of low ratings.
In addition to showing premium content such as overseas movies / premium (HBO / Showtime / Netflix) based dramas (English is broadcast on a sub-channel) and professional Japanese sports (particularly J-League soccer and NPB) and animé, NOTTV produces a lot of original content that can only be seen on NOTTV: this includes exclusive AKB content (it's sort of known as "The AKB Channel"), as well as shows devoted to smartphone fandom, and shows that, ahem, run late at night whose genre was once big in the nineties in Japan.

Midtown Tower
Mori Tower's rival
Its studios and transmission administration is done from Roppongi's Midtown Tower on the 48th floor. I was given a personal tour of its studios and I was impressed with how much they can do with its small space. It's studios spotlights are LED based because the heat that traditional stage lighting generates would be difficult to keep cool within a normal office building.

Docomo/mmbi's previous NOTTV strategy was to offer it free for the first month when you bought a phone, hoping to hook you on the content so you'd pony up for the service after trying it for a month. The two new free channels suggest they are altering their business model so as to tempt people with the premium content at all times.
mmbi reception at Midtown Tower
mmbi's reception inside Midtown Tower


  1. This has become so complex that somehow I do not even want to try and understand the data plans.
    I can very easily imagine the average non-techie person to just give up and accept whatever plans the sales-rep wants to sell them.

    For a single person it would make sense to invest in a good portable battery for a tethering phone rather than pay tablet specific BS fees to access the data that you have already paid for.

  2. Interestingly, data roll over is not available for the new 2GB data plan which would probably have been attractive for many users. The current data plan (7GB) costs 5,200 Yen and the new 5GB data plan (with roll over) costs 5,000 Yen. Hmm, not that attractive. The new data plans seem attractive for users who use 10GB/month or more, but I wonder what percentage of customers are burning through 10GB per month.
    All carriers should be forced to drop the arbitrary Early Termination Fee and unlock phones after the 2-year contract period in order to allow true competition. The current situation is an oligopoly, nothing more.

  3. What was most interesting when modeling the costs over two years based on different usage patterns is that there is often no clear winner. The data plans are set up to optimize revenue. The small ones are just small enough to cause overages where you buy more data and the big ones are just big enough where you buy more data than you need.

    The roll over is really just a gimmick.

  4. I am actually thinking of getting a feature phone just for the calls and then getting something like Nexus7 with MVNO card for data. I am getting more and more frustrated with the SuckBank phones that cannot be used for calls properly; I have Arrows 202F which drops calls (they go directly to voice mail) even when the phone sits on my desk and shows full bars. So I am basically left with a phone that cannot be used for calls and for which the data is just painfully expensive...

    Has anyone tried this kind of configuration? Can the Nexus7 be used for tethering the laptop too?

  5. There is no reason why it should not work. You could get a pre-paid phone to receive incoming calls. Softbank is selling the 301Z for around 6000 yen. This includes a 4000 yen charge so you would be covered to receive incoming calls for 14 months beyond which it would cost 3000 yen a year to keep the number alive.

    Since it supports platinum band, I am assuming that coverage would be decent to receive voice calls.

    Nexus 7 with MVNO could be setup using any VOIP provider to show your outgoing number same as the your above prepaid number. Of course, it can also be used to tether to any device including laptop.