TOP PAGE > P12 Color TV Broadcasts and the Tokyo Olympic Games

Color TV Broadcasts
and the Tokyo
Olympic Games

1953  The US adopts the NTSC system as its color TV standard
1960 Regular color TV broadcasts begin (September)
1961 Second-generation STRL research building completed
1962 Number of TV receiving contracts passes 10 million
1963 Phillips develops Plumbicon tube
1964 Satellite relay broadcast of Tokyo Olympic Games to the U.S. and Europe (October)
1965 First phase of operations at the Broadcasting Center in Shibuya begins

Following color broadcasts by the United States and Cuba, Japan began color TV broadcasting using the NTSC system on September 10, 1960. The U.S. National Television System Committee, or NTSC, standard had 525 scanning lines. One of the most significant characteristics of this system was the ability to render color TV programming viewable on a black-and-white TV set.

1960 Japan Becomes Third Country in the World to begin Regular Color TV Broadcasting

Color TV Broadcasts in Japan

The first color TV broadcasts in Japan began on September 10, 1960. Japan was the third country in the world to adopt the NTSC system after the United States and Cuba. The U.S.'s National Television System Committee, or NTSC, standard had 525 scanning lines. One of the most significant characteristics of this system was the ability to render color TV programming viewable on a black-and-white TV set.

Regular color TV broadcasts were aired on NHK General and Educational TV in Tokyo and Osaka, Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV), Radio Tokyo (now TBS), TV Asahi, and the Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation.
Many stations had inadequate resources and facilites for color broadcasting, so early color TV broadcast programming consisted mostly of foreign films, sports relay broadcasting, and short educational programs. Even seven months after the first broadcast, color TV programming amounted to a mere one hour a day on NHK General TV, 2 hours and 42 minutes on NTV, and 6 minutes on TBS. At the time, the cost of a 21-inch color TV was around 500,000 yen. This was beyond the means of most people, and only 1,200 units had been sold when color TV broadcasting started.


The World's First "TV Olympics"

Broadcasters across Japan including NHK, pooled their efforts on the production of the TV broadcast of the Tokyo Olympic Games in October, 1964. They developed television equipment domestically, including an image pickup tube and equipment for satellite relay broadcasting. The live Olympic broadcasts employed geostationary satellite Syncom 3, and were the first satellite broadcasts in history. The satellite had originally been designed for telephone circuit use, and did not have adequate capacity to transmit TV signals, but a new compression technology application had a successful test run just three days prior to the opening ceremony.

Due to the narrow transmission band of the geostationary satellite (Syncom 3), which was used for the Olympic relay broadcast (the first satellite relay broadcast in history), only the video signals were transmitted via satellite; the sound data was transmitted via undersea cable network.

Due to the narrow transmission band of the geostationary satellite (Syncom 3), which was used for the Olympic relay broadcast (the first satellite relay broadcast in history), only the video signals were transmitted via satellite; the sound data was transmitted via undersea cable network.
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During the games, the events including the opening ceremony, wrestling, volleyball, gymnastics, and judo were broadcasted in color. To ensure picture quality for the large number of viewers watching the program on black-and-white TV sets, the broadcasts employed a separate luminance color camera with two image pickup tubes, specifically designed to preserve picture quality for black-and-white TV. The Olympic broadcasts accompanied the release of new technologies such as close-pickup microphone and slow-motion VTR. The Tokyo Olympic Games came to be known as the "TV Olympics."


The Tokyo Olympic Games was an event that united the entire Japanese nation through broadcast media. This was never more evident than during the women's volleyball final, which pitted the national favorites, the "Eastern Sorceresses," against the team from the then-Soviet Union. The broadcast had a record-setting 95% viewership.

The Olympics showcased the high level of Japanese broadcast technology to the world, and helped the Japanese TV industry make great inroads into the world market.

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