AETN goes exclusive with SPE in Asia

Deal is the first of its kind, network says

UPDATED 2:50 p.m., Beijing, April 2, 2009

BEIJING -- Against the backdrop of a downturn in global television ad sales, AETN All Asia Networks, distributor of A&E's the History Channel in Asia, has appointed SPE Networks as its exclusive advertising sales representative in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

SPE Networks Asia on Wednesday billed the exclusive deal as the first time one regional channel group will represent another in ad sales.

The Sony Pictures Entertainment company will now sell ads for History, the Biography Channel, the Crime & Investigation Network and History HD channel, in addition to ad sales for its own Asia channels, which include AXN, Animax, AXN Beyond and Sony Entertainment Television.

"With an entire suite of eight channels and the combined efforts of the two channel groups, advertisers can definitely expect much more value than what was available before," SPE Networks Asia senior vp Ricky Ow said. "We'd been talking about working together since early last year, but now, in hindsight, it appears to have been the best thing to do in these difficult times."

Ow said in an interview from Singapore that the industry is bracing for a decline in ad sales this year but he hopes that by pairing like programs -- SPE's "The Duke" with a History channel show about Asian business leaders, for instance -- advertisers could find good value and perhaps secure package discounts.

He said that SPE Networks Asia saw double-digit advertising revenue growth in its fiscal 2008, which ended in March, but that the last quarter was "a little tougher than the ones before it."

Growth at AAAN, a joint venture between A&E Television Networks AETN and the Malaysian-owned regional media giant ASTRO All Asia Entertainment Networks, made it an attractive partner, Ow said. The network has expanded the reach of its factual TV channel brands to 3.5 million households in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan over the last two years.

Viewership of the History Channel, for example, rose 250% in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur over the past 21 months, and was up another 16% in just the last week, a survey by Pan Asian Cross Media provided by SPE Networks showed.

In Singapore, ratings agency Taylor Nelson Sofres' television audience measurement service shows the History Channel averaged 668,000 viewers in January and February, demonstrating a jump of 24% more viewers than the same period in 2008.