MTV Goes Local in Asia

Sept. Appointment of Japanese GM Part of Localization Drive

HONG KONG – At a time when content – especially material that is localized, upgraded, value-added – is the talk of the pay-TV industry in Asia, it is proves an ongoing strategic focus for MTV Networks International.

“Creating local content is business as usual for us,” president of MTV Networks International Robert Bakish told The Hollywood Reporter. The company is looking to diversify its distribution channels in Asia, and explore new format sales and licensing opportunities within the region.

“In producing local content and new channels, we create our own destiny,” said Indra Suharjono, MTV Networks International executive VP and managing director, North and Southeast Asia. Suharjono also believed that in order to apply fully an understanding of the local market, it is essential for the local branch to be overseen by a local. “A lot of findings about what Asian people like are the things I’ve known when I was growing up, so locals are more likely to explore the full potential of a market,” Suharjono pointed out, citing the September appointment of Shiego Numakura as senior VP and managing director for MTV Networks Japan, a former veteran of MTV Japan, as example of this management philosophy.

Also in northern Asia, MTV announced a strategic partnership with Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s leading daily newspaper, to launch a new general entertainment cable channel in the country.The new alliance, announced during the Cable & Satellite Broadcasters Association of Asia convention, will see MTV Networks International and Chosun Ilbo, a subsidiary of South Korea’s Chosun Media, co-producing original programming and developing new formats for local broadcast in Korea, as well as to distribute to other regions through MTV’s global cable and satellite network and international sales.

MTV’s original programming from the rest of the world will also appear as part of the new channel’s program lineup. The channel is targeted to commence broadcast in the fall of 2011, pending the broadcasting licenses issued by the Korean Communication Commission at the end of this year, with a music-based launch event featuring Korean and International acts co-produced by MTV Networks and Chosun Ilbo that will be simulcast as part of the MTV World Stage franchise.

The network is also looking into exploring more format sales opportunities in China, where the market access for foreign pay-TV networks remains limited. For successful brands such as Nickelodeon -- also owned by MTV parent company Viacom --  in China, the network has given a push to incorporating locally-produced animation series into their China lineup, giving it pride of place – the slot previously reserved for the channel’s top program, Spongbob Squarepants. The network is in talks with a number of Chinese animation studios for future content. Local adaptation of successful reality program formats is the next step for the network’s consideration, Suharjono said.

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