Three of Japan's five television networks - Fuji TV, TBS and TV Asahi - have agreed to form a groundbreaking joint venture to provide film and other content via broadband.

In addition to feature films for a VOD service, content will include TV dramas, animation, sports and news. Programmes will beam to home PCs on a subscription basis.

The venture, the first of its kind in the Japanese broadcasting business, is expected to have a management company in place in spring 2001, armed with capital of $40-$48m (Y5-Y6bn). Fuji TV, TBS and TV Asahi will hold the biggest stakes, while companies including the NTT Group and major telecommunications hardware manufacturers are to take smaller shares.

The two Japanese nets not belonging to the consortium - TV Tokyo and NTV - are already engaged in broadband businesses via the Internet, but on a far smaller scale than that projected by their rivals.

By linking, the partners intend to cut costs for broadband programme production and transmission at a time when they have racked up hefty expenses launching broadcast satellite services. The switch to digital terrestrial broadcasting, scheduled to begin in 2003, has put further pressure on spending.

The joint venture is expected to give a major boost to the PC market and Internet use, areas in which Japan lags behind other developed countries.