St.GIGA (Japanese: セント・ギガ Hepburn: Sento.GIGA) was a satellite radio company that was formed as a subsidiary of satellite television company WOWOW and later became semi-independent, forming a keiretsu with its parent. Using the BS network to broadcast digital radio via direct broadcast satellite as a test on November 30, 1990, St.GIGA became the world's first Satellite Digital Audio Broadcast Corporation. Regular broadcasting began March 30, 1991, and by September 1, St.GIGA adopted the commercial-free concept proposed by producer Hiroshi Yokoi and began to charge a broadcasting subscription fee.
|Slogan||I'm here. — I'm glad you're there. — We are St.GIGA.|
|First air date||April 2, 1990|
|Last air date||October 1, 2007 |
(17 years, 182 days)
|Format||Biomusic, ambient, jazz, classical, new-age|
|Website||StGIGA.co.jp at the Wayback Machine (archived May 28, 2003)|
Following a period of financial difficulties and as part of an agreement with Nintendo, from between April 1995 and June 2000, St.GIGA broadcast digitally encoded video games to owners of Super Famicoms with the Satellaview attachment. Satellaview broadcasts were limited in distribution to Japan alone, however through St.GIGA's services Nintendo broadcast a large number of rare ura and gaiden versions of some of its most popular franchises such as The Legend of Zelda, Mario, and Kirby. With the exception of BS Fire Emblem: Akaneia Senki, these games have never been re-released and can only be played today via incomplete emulation.
Broadcast between March 11, 1990 and November 28, 2007, St.GIGA has undergone a number of changes of both carrier satellite and broadcast band. The following is a condensed history of these changes:
- April 2, 1990 - St.GIGA is founded.
- St.GIGA began broadcasts on BS-3ch in 1990 via the BS-2a satellite.
- August 1991 - St.GIGA switched to the BS-3b satellite, and in September it began broadcasting on BS-5ch
- April 23, 1995 - Broadcasts begin to the Super Famicom add-on, Satellaview.
- April 1999 - Nintendo withdraws support.
- June 30, 2000 - Last Satellaview broadcast.
- On December 1, 2000, St.GIGA began simultaneous broadcasts on Radio 333ch (Data broadcasting via 633 and 636ch)
- March 21, 2003 - St.GIGA becomes Club COSMO.
- October 1, 2003 - Club COSMO sold to WINJ
- 2005 - Club COSMO's 5ch broadcasts became analog (March 31) and the switch to 333ch was completed (May 10)
- 2006 - WINJ begins St.GIGA rebroadcasts
- On November 28, 2007 all affiliated broadcast bands are terminated and the satellite broadcast certificate is revoked.
In 1990 the established Japanese satellite television company WOWOW decided to expand their services into the field of satellite radio. The core management team made the executive decision to create a subsidiary named St.GIGA. The name was selected by a popular poll of "persons on the streets" because the executives agreed that they knew nothing about music. In deciding whom to hire as director for the subsidiary, Hiroshi Yokoi (横井宏) (who had recently designed the successful J-Wave FM) was selected as an innovator in the field.
Soon after accepting the position, Yokoi crafted a radical proposal for the station concept. The initial reaction at WOWOW was skeptical; however within a few months of traditional satellite radio broadcasts, Yokoi's concept was given probationary adoption, and Yokoi was subsequently given full discretion to shape the company's future.
Yokoi's "Tide of Sound"Edit
Under Hiroshi Yokoi's direction, the St.GIGA station motto became "I'm here. — I'm glad you're there. — We are St.GIGA." This is a reference to Kurt Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan in which the alien life forms called harmoniums communicate using only the phrases "Here I am." and "So glad you are." Strongly influenced by the works of Kurt Vonnegut and Kevin W. Kelley's The Home Planet, Yokoi's original concept proposal for St.GIGA would break new ground for broadcast communication methodology.
In accordance with Yokoi's conception, St.GIGA's broadcasts initially followed no externally fixed (or artificial) timetable. Rather they were based upon the cyclical motif of a 24-hour "tide table" where broadcast themes were approximately matched to the current tidal cycle according to the rule of twelfths throughout the 24-hour broadcasting period. Under this innovative schedule, the station broadcast a variety of primarily ambient music programs including Music Tide (音楽潮流 Ongaku Chōryū), various jazz programs, and Tide Table (タイド・テーブル Taido . Teburu) (featuring live sound-broadcasts of the ocean shore). The beginnings and ends of programs were not clearly demarcated and instead utilized the unprecedented "Tide of Sound" (音の潮流 Oto no Chōryū) method where songs of one genre would gradually flow into and intersperse with the songs from the prior genre until the new genre became predominant. The intent, according to Yokoi was to allow the listener to relax in a wave of sound "like a baby sleeps in the womb."  "Tide of Sounds" broadcasts operated under a principle of "No Commercials, No DJs, No News Broadcasts, No Talk." Unlike most commercial-driven radio broadcasts, this was made possible for St.GIGA due to its reliance on a subscription Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) service. In order to receive this DAB service, the subscriber was required to obtain a special decoder, to pay an initiation fee, and subsequent monthly fees. "Tide of Sounds" broadcasts often took the form of high-quality digital recordings of nature sounds accompanied by spoken word narration by an actor as the "Voice." Throughout the life span of "Tide of Sounds" broadcasts, the part of the "Voice" would be played by a number of notable Japanese poets including Ryo Michiko among others. "Voice" performances often consisted of all new poetry composed specifically for the show.
St.GIGA also broadcast its B-mode audio programming (a series of all classical music broadcasts) over analog broadcasting frequency bands that were shared with its parent, the satellite broadcasting company WOWOW.
Highly artistic and experimental, the St.GIGA sound became extremely popular within certain segments of the population, and the station was recognized for its innovative concept, unique vision, and nonstandard methodology. Fan publications such as BSFan Journal and G-Mania sprang up to publish details of the music and to report on the ambient, mood, and electronic scene that was burgeoning in Japan. To this day numerous fan groups, trading groups, and collectors with an emphasis on St.GIGA's musical products exist online.
The initial popularity of the music funded trips by St.GIGA biomusic recorders to travel abroad to record at such exotic locations as England, Canary Islands, Mikonos, Venice, Bali, Tahiti, Martinique, Hanson Island (BC), and Maui. St.GIGA was also able to release a number of thematic books including the multi-volume St.GIGA Stylebook, Current of dreams: An introduction St.GIGA programming (Yume no choryu: St.Giga hensei soron) (containing the full text of Yokoi's original concept proposal), and Trends in Dreaming - St.GIGA's Hiroshi Yokoi's General Office (夢の潮流 -St.GIGA編成総論横井宏著 発行所) (also released on VHS). Later thematic films were sold including Traveling with St.GIGA (1999) and Sound and Vision (2007)
Billboard Magazine, July 23, 1994
St.GIGA sold a variety of products ranging from program guides to "sound calendars" to fragrances. The company also released a number of CDs under St.GIGA's own label as well as a variety of foreign labels such as the Hearts of Space, and music by Deep Forest.
The market for ambient music and its related forms was not as strong as initially anticipated, and demand was impacted by Japan's recession. By 1994, the station was beginning to face serious financial difficulties, resulting in drastic changes in programming.
Satellite Data broadcastingEdit
|“||Nintendo expects to sell 2 million [Satellaview] adapter/cassette packages a year.||”|
Billboard Magazine, July 23, 1994
By 1994, St.GIGA's financial difficulties resulted in the cutting back of "Tide of Sound" broadcasts. The company's portion of the subscription-funded audio broadcasts were to be replaced under subcontract by an all new series of advertising-funded Satellite Data broadcasts, managed under the "rescue" and executive control of Nintendo, St.GIGA's largest shareholder at 19.5%.
Beginning on April 23, 1995, St.GIGA broadcast video-game-related data to owners of the Super Famicom's Satellaview peripheral created by Nintendo. This device bolts onto the underside of the Super Famicom in a manner similar to the later Nintendo 64DD's attachment to the Nintendo 64 and the Game Boy Player's attachment to the GameCube. Only released to the Japanese market, the Satellaview acted as a satellite modem, allowing players to download broadcast data. The resulting games were then stored on requisite specialized rewritable storage cartridges at an additional launch price of 14,000 yen ($143).
The broadcast content ranged from video-game-related Satellaview news and specific interest journals such as Game Tiger's big House (ゲーム虎の大穴 Gemu Tora no OoAna) to expansion data for popular Super Famicom games (including, for example, Chrono Trigger) and all new video game releases including titles in such flagship series as The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, and Kirby. Additionally, a number of these broadcasts featured an updated version of St.GIGA's earlier "Tide of Sounds" "Voice," now called "SoundLink" (サウンドリンク), with which St.GIGA voice actors would provide a live vocal track to accompany games, setting plot and describing in-game goals.
Due to the rewritability of the cartridges, the fact that "SoundLink" broadcasts were not downloaded to the game cartridges but rather were streamed live during the noon-2AM Super Famicom Hour broadcasting time, and because the broadcast game data have never been rereleased by Nintendo, these games have become extremely rare. The subculture of collectors and enthusiasts that has grown online have exerted much effort engaged in electronic archaeology by extracting old data from heavily rewritten data cartridges in order to faithfully reproduce the games via emulation.
Aside from St.GIGA's "SoundLink" or broadcasts accompanying the transmission of data for its "Soundlink Games" (サウンドリンクゲーム), St.GIGA also broadcast a wealth of information on talk shows and celebrity idols, including a variety show. Broadcast times were fitted to match the schedules of students, and the station's audience demographics shifted radically much to the disappointment of the station's former ambient music fans. Before long the station had ceased transmissions of all "Time & Tide" programs (those featuring new age music) including the much-admired Tidal Currents (潮の潮流 Shio no Chōryū), Fan publications such as BSFan Journal became replaced by more populist publications like Satellaview Communications Magazine (サテラビュー通信 Saterabyu Tsuushin), and St.GIGA focused all energies on Satellaview transmissions.
Satellaview transmissions continued uninterruptedly with only a single recertification between 1995 and April 1999. Carrying a "cumulative debt of 8.8 billion yen" as of March 1998, a Reuters report on August 21, 1998 indicated St.GIGA's rejection of Nintendo's debt management proposal as well as the broadcaster's failure to apply for renewal of its governmental satellite license. This resulted in the withdrawal of Nintendo's five executive staff, and the withdrawal of all current and proposed programming plans by Nintendo, Kyocera, and "many content providers", that had been intended for launch in 2000; though Nintendo's 19.7% ownership portfolio remained intact. St.GIGA continued Satellaview broadcasts after this point; however, the company could only broadcast reruns of games previously transmitted as Nintendo had discontinued its supply of new original content as of March 1999. Facing economic difficulties again, St.GIGA discontinued its Satellaview broadcasts on June 30, 2000 in order to return focus to music broadcasts as had been done prior to the Nintendo deal.
Later years and current statusEdit
By 2001, St.GIGA was nearly bankrupt and entered into merger talks with WireBee Inc. (株式会社ワイヤービー Kabushikigaisha Waiyabi) with which it became associated for the remainder of its lifespan. On March 21, 2003, following the death by cancer of director Yokoi, St.GIGA was rechristened Club COSMO (クラブコスモ Kurabukosumo) under the leadership of Shinichi Matsuo (松尾信一). Broadcasts continued until October 1, when the company was forced to sell its licensing rights to World Independent Networks Japan Inc. (WINJ). WireBee immediately began bankruptcy procedures, and all recording instruments and 241 tapes of nature sounds were auctioned off at open market for a total divided sale price of ¥5 million. Discussions concerning Club COSMO's involvement under WINJ's oversight in a new reality show were circulated briefly at this time, however to date no such show has been produced.
In 2006, WINJ began broadcasting reruns of St.GIGA's original "Tide of Sound" and "Time & Tide" broadcasts during a 2PM-4PM time slot, however on November 1 of the same year these broadcasts were suspended on the pretext of broadcasting equipment maintenance. The program was scheduled to resume in the 2007 fiscal year, however on November 14, 2007, Hiroya Masuda the Minister of Internal Affairs revoked the broadcasting certificate under Act 54 of Article 24 of the Japanese General Broadcasting Statute.
- Satellaview - The Nintendo peripheral that allowed player to download BS Games directly to its Super Famicoms
- WOWOW - Parent satellite broadcasting TV Station.
- Broadcasting Satellite System Corporation - The company that controlled the satellites from which St.GIGA broadcast, and its current fleet of Japanese broadcasting satellites.
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- St.GIGA Forever - St.GIGA homepage (in Japanese)
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- St.GIGA program director, Yoshihiro Kawasaki's personal website (in Japanese)
- ja.wikipedia article on "Voice" performer Ryo Michiko (in Japanese)
- Harmonia - Ryo Michiko's personal website (in Japanese)
- "Tide of Sound" performer, Robert Newcomb's page
- Revival of St.GIGA's "tidal sound" (in Japanese)