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Japan's Netflix contender bets on youth-driven viral hits

TOKYO (Reuters) - On a Friday night at a downtown Tokyo television studio, 12 teen models with cutesy nicknames like Ayamin and Kyokyo are waiting nervously to find out who has won coveted spots on the cover of Popteen magazine, a Japanese fashion bible. The girls, sporting a range of trendy styles, are the stars of "Popteen Cover Girl War," a hit show from internet upstart AbemaTV that may signal a new direction for Japanese television. Eschewing the pricy serials and star-studded films that have helped companies like Netflix upend the traditional TV business in the U.S., AbemaTV is betting on low-budget, reality-based fare with colourful graphics, relatable young faces and a relentless focus on generating social media buzz. Japan's traditional broadcasters, boxed in by government regulations and concerned about upsetting their regional stations, have mostly left the internet field clear for upstarts like AbemaTV and foreign players like Netflix and Amazon.com. Yet AbemaTV remains an unproven bet for its biggest backer, online ad agency CyberAgent, which launched the network three years ago with TV Asahi.

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