Docomo bringing hit show ‘House of Cards’ to Japanese smartphones

House of Cards, advertised on a Tokyo train

At this year’s CEATEC Japan event NTT Docomo showed off the news that its NotTV service for smartphones has obtained rights to broadcast House of Cards in Japan. The Emmy award winning show is being brought to Japan with Japanese subtitles. Sounds like good news right? Let’s look at the details.

One episode of House of Cards will be broadcast via NotTV at 11 PM every Saturday night, starting tonight, October 5. This means you will need to either stay up until midnight to watch the show here in Japan, or set NotTV on your smartphone to record each Saturday night at 11 PM.

What happens if you miss an episode, or you forget to record the show? You might think you can watch old episodes streaming on demand or download, right? Wrong. The episode of the week will be rebroadcast on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at different times, then after that time the episode will no longer be available to watch.

If you’re not a NotTV subscriber but want to watch House of Cards in Japan, the other way it will be available in Japan is via satellite broadcast on the Imagica BS channel.

Some background about NotTV:

Mr. Spacey, perched at the Docomo booth at CEATEC

NotTV is a proprietary 1Seg-like broadcast service, which certain Docomo Android smartphones can tune into. A 420 yen monthly subscription (about $4) is required to tune in, and when we checked in back in June there service had more than a million paying customers. But because NotTV is a broadcast service it requires towers to be within range to receive the signal, meaning NotTV is not available in all prefectures of Japan.

Contrast this to’s deal bringing The Walking Dead to Japan. The Walking Dead series is initially broadcast on the International Fox cable channel with Japanese subtitles a couple of weeks after US broadcast, and is made available on for streaming on the following day. The previously broadcast episodes are available to watch on demand, on a variety of devices.

I guess that Docomo missed House of Cards producer and starring actor Kevin Spacey’s recent speech on giving control to the viewers (see below), where Spacey advises the TV/media industry to make their shows available in any form the viewers want, praising Netflix as an example to follow. I’m glad to see Hulu Japan is picking up the slack in Japan, letting viewers watch the shows they want, when they want, on the screen they want.