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HONG KONG-"Business is a leisure activity here" in Asia, said Paul France, 49, the cordial New Zealand-born CEO of the region's first business news channel, Asia Business News. "People talk about it over the family dinner table."

ABN meets the demand for financial and business news tailored to the needs of Asia's business community-and provides data to its advertisers about its viewers, hard to find in Asia.

In addition to its original business plan, Mr. France devised ABN's innovative computer graphics that transform complex financial market data into useful 3-D images.

The English-language satellite channel, celebrating its second birthday this month, reaches more than 13 million households and 130,000 hotel rooms in 14 Asian countries and on the West Coast of the U.S. Dow Jones & Co. and Tele-Communications Inc. each hold 44.25%. A year after ABN's launch, Dow Jones started European Business News.

ABN runs a promotional campaign, "Your Inside Partner in Asia," with viewer testimonials ranging from the head of Hong Kong's Stock Exchange to coconut plantation farmers. The farmers tuned in to ABN and for the first time got crucial marketplace information. In gratitude, they sent ABN a bag of seeds.

Mr. France lures advertisers with hard data on ABN's viewers. The channel sunk a third of this year's marketing budget into research, he said, commissioning frequent TV audience polls in such core markets as Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia.

One survey this year yielded data on how viewers regard ABN and how much they watch it. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, more respondents picked ABN than any other TV channel or newspaper as a valuable source of business information; 44% of Hong Kong viewers said ABN gave them information they couldn't get elsewhere.

ABN's polls help to counter the cynicism of an Asian ad industry jaded by other channels' unsubstantiated claims of audience reach.

"Ours is a voice of sanity in the midst of a great deal of hyperbole," Mr. France said.

ABN's current advertisers include Ford Motor Co. and Volvo, Cathay Pacific Airways and Saudi Arabian Airlines, American Express Co., Sony Corp. and NV Philips. ABN reached 70% of its ad sales target for 1995 by midyear, he said.

ABN is no longer the only business channel in Asia. NBC joined the fray earlier this year with CNBC. Mr. France predicts an eventual shakeout. "It will be survival of the fittest," he said.

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