By Tony Cline, Staff Writer
On July 1st and 2nd, NJPW held their first solo event in the United States in Long Beach, CA. They sold the two-day event out in a matter of hours, and the events contained a tournament that crowned the first ever IWGP United States champion. During the second day, NJPW announced that they will be holding more events in the US in 2018. All of this seems to presage a major push into the US market for the premiere Japanese promotion. Personally, I am a big fan of the promotion and its stars, and I hope the expansion goes well. However, there are several things that NJPW needs to improve as it prepares to make this move in order to prevent the promotion from falling flat on its face. Therefore, as I am wont to do, I offer some unsolicited advice to make NJPW’s push into the US market a booming success:
- Improve the English website. NJPW 1972, the English language site for the promotion, is fairly decent, though the English is fairly clunky in certain areas (e.g. calling match videos “movies”), but links take you to the main NJPW site which is composed in Japanese. You can allow the page to translate it for you, but the English is reminiscent to what one might get out of someone that took a semester of English in high school and had no idea what sounds right. The words are translated in the order they appear in Japanese which makes phrases and sentences fairly random and sometimes difficult to understand in English. If New Japan wants to attract American fans, a well-crafted English website would be very helpful.
- Help me understand. I am a subscriber to NJPW’s site so that I can watch all of their events. I love the content, but I get monthly emails (I assume they are billing emails) that are entirely in Japanese. My email service does not offer translation, so I have no idea what these emails really say. Luckily, I am signed up for automatic payments, so I’m not missing payment reminders, but these emails are fairly long and may have some useful information in them. I’d like to be able to read them.
- Set a price in dollars. My subscription is charged every month at the same price: 999 yen (usually between $8 and $9). There are two problems with this as NJPW expands into the American market. The first is simply that most Americans have no idea what a yen is in American currency and will likely be scared by paying 999 of any base currency. Setting a price in American currency will be more amenable to American subscribers and help the promotion in its effort to attract a larger American fan base. The second problem with pricing solely in yen is that the price charged to the subscriber’s card each month will be a different amount based on the current exchange rate. Since exchange rates fluctuate like stock prices, American subscribers will almost never pay the same fee twice. For some, this will be a small nuisance, if that. For others, those fluctuations could cause problems like bounced check fees. Making the price a constant for your American subscribers makes the subscription more user-friendly and more likely to draw American subscribers.
- Help me understand, Part II. The Japanese style of promos is very different than what we in the United States are used to. There are no promos for most of the event. Then, the main event winner will often, though not always, take the microphone to cut a promo. In addition, there is a press conference held after each event where the performers say what they need to say and answer press questions. I don’t want to see NJPW change this style as it is a differentiator that offers a change of pace from American-style shows. However, being that most of these promos are in Japanese, please caption them in English. I know that may be hard to do live, but by inserting just a two-minute delay between truly live and the broadcast on NJPW 1972, these promos could be translated and captioned in English. Doing so will help your American fans follow the storylines better and get them more engaged in the product, thereby creating more and more loyal fans. Oh, and please use someone that is actually conversant in English rather than a high school student for these translations.
- Kevin Kelly and Don Callis on every show. If you are going to attract a large American fan base, we will want to be able to follow every event. To make that easier, NJPW needs to have the American announce team of Kevin Kelly and Don Callis broadcasting for every event. New Japan is currently in the middle of its G1 Climax Tournament, a 19-day affair with two ten-man pools of competitors that battle in round-robin format with the two pool winners meeting on the last day. Kelly and Callis called the matches for the first few days, and I believe they shall return for the final few days of the tournament, but there is a large number of shows in the middle of this tournament where American fans will simply have to watch with no understandable commentary at all. This is a huge faux pas for a company that is looking to expand into the United States in a big way. You just held a huge American event and now have a lot of American eyes on you. Not offering these fans understandable commentary for the entirety of this very important tournament is a major dropped ball. Don’t let this happen again. Make sure that the market you are targeting doesn’t get turned off because they cannot understand anything that is going on in the show.
Following these five suggestions would go a long way toward helping NJPW in its quest to build a loyal American following for its product. I long to see New Japan make a successful expansion, not only because I really like their product and their stars but because I think the competition would force American promotions to step up their games and provide a better product for fans. Maybe someone with a semester of high school Japanese can translate this column and send it to the guys at NJPW.