- Last year, you were named CEO of ClaN Entertainment (hereafter "ClaN"), an entertainment company established by Nippon TV for VTubers. We understand that the "VTuber" business was originally a new venture within the company.
Ever since I joined the company, I knew I wanted to start a completely new entertainment business that harnessed the latest digital technologies. Just five years ago, in 2018, VTubers were still largely unknown, with no more than a thousand of them. Now, there are well over 20,000. Today, the concept of the metaverse and its three-dimensional virtual space is common knowledge, and the world of VTubers inside the metaverse, which was once dominated by female characters, now boasts a diversity that includes men and animals. I sense there is a significant opportunity for new ventures in the entertainment industry here, and I'm aiming to be a pioneer in this rapidly evolving and relatively untapped realm.
- Did your fondness for entertainment emerge as a child?
Yes, I always loved television, and my parents enjoyed the theater and musicals, so I have been exposed to various forms of entertainment for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still remember the Broadway play I saw in New York City on a family vacation when I was in the sixth grade. But, on the other hand, I also loved Japanese comedy groups like The Drifters.
- The Drifters aren't quite your generation, are they?
My introduction to the Drifters came with the passing of their leader, Chosuke Ikariya, when I was in elementary school. I found the comedy sketches I saw on TV memorial programs so funny that I spent nearly half of my 50,000 yen in savings on a Drifters' DVD box set. I watched the DVDs over and over again until I was able to perform their sketches in front of an audience. Even as a child, their professional approach to comedy struck a chord in me. Eventually, I became a fan of SMAP, too. Their allure lay not only in their music and choreography but also in their dedication to constant evolution, exploring new fields like acting and comedy, all the while maintaining their professional poise.
At my high school, we had a unique tradition where every class performed a musical for the cultural festival, and many of us students put more effort into our performances than club activities. I remember getting swept up in the thrill of the musical production, which was when I discovered the joy of creating something as part of a team.
- Might you have become a performer yourself?
No, I don't think so. In high school, I experienced both performing and working backstage, each with its own appeal, and I have always wanted to be on the side of bringing entertainment to the world. Since elementary school, my best subject has always been social studies because it allows you to understand how the world works. That's probably one of the reasons why I enjoy running a company so much. A love for entertainment and a curiosity to explore the workings of the world— I guess you could say that those are my two driving forces.
- After high school, you went on to study at Keio's Faculty of Business and Commerce.
I was drawn to Keio University's Faculty of Business and Commerce because of its reputation for producing successful corporate leaders at listed companies. I think I was already interested in management at that time. As soon as I entered university, I had this feeling that I was finally free. [laughs] Until I finished high school, my life and studies revolved around a fixed timetable. But at university, aside from the required subjects, I could choose my own courses and create my own schedule. I had the liberty to use my time as I pleased. This was the beauty of life at university. I enjoyed studying international business and accounting, and from my second year onward, I used the long spring and summer holidays to study abroad.
- We understand that you spent your last year of university at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Yes, it was amazing being so close to Hollywood, the center of the American film industry, and I wanted to test my abilities at one of the world's top universities. I even thought about getting a job in Hollywood. UCLA had plenty of students who were well-versed in the entertainment industry, which was extremely inspiring. At the same time, I didn't feel a significant intellectual gap between myself and my peers at UCLA. I believe that as long as Japanese students have the ability to express themselves in English, they can keep pace with students at even the best universities in the world.
- And so you started job hunting after returning from your study at UCLA?
Yes, I was considering working at a television station, which is synonymous with entertainment in Japan, or at a foreign consulting firm, which would give me a better eye for business. Ultimately, I decided to work for the TV station because there were so many people there with backgrounds different from mine. I tend to think logically, whereas many people at the TV station seemed to be more intuitive. After weighing my options between joining a consulting firm populated by logical thinkers like myself and a TV station where intuition prevails, I found the latter more exciting. When I received the job offer from Nippon TV on my birthday, it felt like a sign.
- You said you wanted to work on innovative entertainment initiatives utilizing digital technology from the moment you joined the company. Can you tell us more about that?
After joining Nippon TV, I worked in commercial sales while brainstorming ideas for new ventures. Then, while I was still in my first year, I found out about the pioneering VTuber Kizuna AI after seeing something called the "Kizuna AI physical fitness test." I was blown away by the exciting and innovative potential of motion capture technology as I observed how it recreated people's movements and made these characters come alive so dynamically in the virtual world. I realized that with this genre, we could produce cutting-edge entertainment in Japan that could hold its own against Hollywood. I immediately compiled my thoughts and pitched my ideas to the higher-ups, and through Nippon TV's in-house innovation program, we were able to launch our VTuber business in August 2018, during my second year with the company. Though we started small with just two members, we were already considering future incorporation. In 2020, we established a network of VTubers called "V-Clan," and the following year, we launched our first VTuber program, which led to us establishing ClaN last April as a subsidiary funded by Nippon TV. We currently support the activities of about 300 VTubers.
- Did you face any difficulties when starting the company?
The business itself was an entirely new challenge. It wasn't just about starting a business but also managing and expanding the existing business while tackling various tasks related to establishing the company. I laugh about it now, but it's something I never want to do again. [laughs] The beauty of ClaN is that as an independent startup, we have a very high degree of freedom in back-office aspects such as business operations and human resources. We've assembled a diverse and highly skilled team, creating an environment where we can tackle any business challenge swiftly. At the same time, we're able to tap into the know-how, resources, and credibility of Nippon TV, which is also a significant strength.
- Tell us about your upcoming business plans.
We are not a traditional Japanese entertainment company. Instead, we're more akin to an open network organization similar to the agency model you find in the United States. Within this structure, we are involved in content production using VTubers, supporting individual VTubers and social media influencers, and creating programs as part of the Nippon TV Group. Soon, we want to broadcast original ClaN content to the world. Our goal is the "massification," "diversification," and "globalization" of VTubers. Despite a significant increase in social recognition, the fact remains that there is a public image equating VTubers with beautiful young female characters. However, I believe the potential for growth is well beyond these limited public perceptions.
- What exactly do you mean by "potential for growth"?
- ClaN's motto is "Transforming lives through entertainment," correct?
- Could you say a few final words to current students?
Experience everything you can during your four years at university. Being a student is the best time to act without fear of risk, and you can make opportunities for yourself by putting your ideas into action. We live in a time when authenticity is the key to brilliance, so I urge you not to fear being different and do whatever makes you stand out. It would delight me to know that students at Keio are spending their time digging deep to uncover talents unique to them.
- Thank you for your time.
CEO, ClaN Entertainment Inc.
Motoyuki Oi graduated from Keio University's Faculty of Business and Commerce in 2017 and joined Nippon Television Network Corporation. The following year, he was responsible for launching its in-house "VTuber" business. VTuber is an abbreviation for "Virtual YouTuber," which refers to virtual avatars on online video sites and the individuals behind their video posts and live streams. Oi is also the producer of several online VTuber programs and events for Nippon TV, including the popular "Project V." In April 2022, he established ClaN Entertainment, Inc. as a new subsidiary of Nippon TV and became CEO in his fifth year with the company at the age of 27.