ASIAN MEDIA DISCOVER BIG DISTRIBUTION GAINS;TV, PRINT MEDIA STAY HEALTHY;LOCAL PARTNERS KEY TO FUTURE ROLL-OUTS

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Eyes are widening in the Asian media marketplace, and it's not only TV viewers gaping at the extent of their newfound multichannel growth.

Publishers of international newspapers and magazines are celebrating circulation gains in key Asian markets. The Asian Wall Street Journal reports double digit circulation growth in Thailand (83%), China (44%), Korea (18%) and Indonesia (12%) from July to December 1995 over the same period in 1994.

Rate increases of 9% are in line with the average worldwide circulation growth, which the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations report puts at an average of 8.5% last year to 51,009 paid copies a day. Revenue in Asia are also up on 1994, by as much as 41% for Time, 25% for Newsweek and 20% for the Journal, according to the Competitive Media Reporting International Report for January to September 1995.

On the magazine racks, local publications are making way for Asian editions of international titles. Hachette Filipacchi Presse, publisher of Elle, stepped up its Asian launches from one title a year to three or four. Conde Nast Publications, which has a Korean Vogue in the pipeline, is considering Asian editions of Glamour, and GQ. Hearst Corp.'s Cosmopolitan also looks set to make further inroads into Asia.

International advertisers support this expansion.

"European luxury goods manufacturers are making a concerted effort in Asian markets," said Matthew Farrar, international advertising director for Mercury Publicity. Mercury handles ad sales for Madame Figaro. (See luxury goods special report, Page I-15.)

Although he expects no great circulation leaps from Madame Figaro's 300,000 in Japan and 120,000 in Korea, ad pages in Japan were up 45% last year compared to 1994.

The most frenetic growth is in cable and satellite-delivered TV channels. Vibrant if chaotic systems in India, Taiwan and the Philippines are being regulated and upgraded. Malaysia, Australia, Singapore and South Korea launched new pay-TV systems last year, and the first digitally compressed satellite TV package is slated for Indonesia this year.

Even Vietnam has multichannel TV projects on the go. In Hong Kong, an ad ban on pay-TV will be lifted in July, which throws open a small but immensely wealthy market to niche advertising opportunities.

TV players are reporting phenomenal distribution gains, aided by relaxed rules and technological advancements. At the end of 1995, CNN International claimed 12.1 million households in Asia, including 6 million in India, compared to 4.4 million in 1994.

Advertising spending hasn't increased at the same pace-yet. But major players are optimistic. International and local companies are beefing up their Asian advertising strategies, said Lynne Kraselsky, Turner International's Southeast Asian ad sales VP.

According to Nielsen Survey Research Group, TV ad spending in Singapore was $443.6 million from January to November 1995, from $425.1 million in 1994. Newspapers in Malaysia from January to November 1995 grabbed the lion's share of the ad pie, with $396.0 million, against TV's $228.6 million and magazines' $41.3 million. In Indonesia, TV took most of the ad dollars, with $430.4 million against newspapers' $311.6 million and magazines' $72.7 million.

Similarly credible measurement systems are slowly being put into place for TV audiences. "These standardized figures will boost ad growth," said John McClure, Asia-Pacific media director at Dentsu, Young & Rubicam, Singapore. The hardware development is "out there waiting for the programming, penetration and numbers to catch up."

Increased commercial air time may open up pricing to the advantage of advertisers.

"We have had to fight to get on air in a number of markets," Mr. McClure said. "Once regional TV becomes a viable option, we will have the opportunity to realize some greater efficiencies."

While advertisers look for Asian efficiencies, TV operators continue to think regionally and act locally. Many satellite programmers are rolling out country-by-country strategies, committing themselves to production with local partners and ditching pan-Asian approaches.

This localization is being echoed elsewhere to impressive effect. The Journal's Thai circulation jumped by 83% after it began printing in Thailand in 1995. Similar success is anticipated in Malaysia.

The Journal also prints in Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo.

Strong local partners are considered crucial in most successful media roll-outs.

The Journal's regional printing strategy depends almost entirely on a partnership with a local newspaper, said William Adamopolous, managing director."We need a partner that is technologically compatible and that has a can-do management culture."

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