At 46, Don Atyeo, Channel [V]'s Australian-born general manager and founder, sometimes thinks he's too old to run a rock 'n' roll
channel. But by broadcasting music videos targeted at Asian youths' different cultures and tastes, he hasn't found age to be a barrier to his successfully tuning into the consciousness of young people in the region.
Localization is the buzzword at the 24-hour channel. "What we are doing is a local channel with an international outlook," Mr. Atyeo said. "We found very early on, to our cost, that Indian kids hated Chinese music and Chinese kids loathe Indian music."
The original Channel [V] was launched in May 1994 for India. Its success has inspired three more Channel [V]s, tailored for local markets or groups of linguistically-similar countries. The Hong Kong-based service has since become a household name among the 240 million viewers, ages 12 to 34, it claims to reach in 73 Asian markets.
The mix of local programming with Western music videos and the wooing of advertisers have made Channel [V] a rare success in the crowded Asian market of satellite TV. Transmitted via News Corp.'s STAR TV network, it replaced Viacom-owned MTV Asia, which originally introduced multimarket music TV to Asia on STAR TV but went its separate way following a disagreement with its partner.
Channel [V] has since shunned MTV's original philosophy that the global youth markets have similar tastes. Today, Channel [V] broadcasts as four separate channels. The Indian service broadcasts in Arabic, English and Hindustani. A Chinese-language version is aimed at mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. In September, Channel [V] International launched in the Tagalog and Bahasa tongues for Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Finally, Channel [V] Thailand, on the air since July, is the first of several national services planned.
Besides drawing advertisers, this multifaceted approach also appeals to local cable TV operators, who feared that subscribers would reject a broader, pan-Asian Channel [V].
To market the network, Mr. Atyeo partnered his product with high-profile advertisers, including leading Indian electronics marketers BPL and Videocon, and watch maker Timex. He even named programs after them: BPL Oye's format of popular Indian pop and movie songs enjoys top ratings among young South Asian viewers in the Indian subcontinent and the Middle East.
By acquiring program-naming rights and program sponsorship, these big-brand companies advertise their programs via in-store promotions, as well as with print and outdoor campaigns. The ads also explain where and when to watch these programs, generating more awareness for Channel [V].
"What we were doing is building blocks that ultimately added up to Channel [V]," said Mr. Atyeo. "We actually pushed the name of the program stronger than we did the Channel [V] aspect."
Localized programming has been effective. Channel [V] Music Networks, the parent company, had $15 million in ad revenue in 1995, 37.5% from India alone. Twenty-five percent came from Hong Kong, and 11% from Japan.