|It's been a rebirth for Turner in Asia Pacific under Ricky Ow’s leadership, starting Jan. 2014. This article, published first October 15, 2014, highlights Turner’s moves into local and Asian entertainment, kids and news. As Turner strengthens its footing across Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the onus is on what’s next as the media company looks to become bigger and better.|
Turner’s expansion drive seems to be firming up fast in Southeast Asia.
Within the space of a week, the broadcaster best known for CNN and Cartoon Network has unveiled plans for a new Korean entertainment channel, a localized version of CNN in the Philippines, and the first regional feed for kids offering Boomerang.
There’s more to come, says Turner's Asia-Pacific president Ricky Ow, keen to move on rising demand in the region for differentiated content. Nonetheless, laying the foundations for a deeper in-market presence can still take time.
“It’s a very simple strategy,” Ow says. “We want to go local where it makes sense, and we want to expand our kids offering and we want to expand our entertainment offering. But we want to do it in a meaningful way, and not just launching and parachuting things across [Asia].”
This approach is exemplified in Turner’s Asian entertainment play, signing a long-term volume deal last week with one of Korea’s biggest broadcasters, MBC, for a new regional channel, Oh!K.
Korean Wave here to Stay
Korean dramas and shows, seen as part of the Korean Wave, have become mainstream entertainment in Asia, Ow contends, pushing up content prices but also possible returns.
Ow is confident the economics work in his favor, seeking carriage close to the basic tier. The first distribution deals will be announced next week.
At the same time, Turner's play has made it more difficult for new entrants, Ow notes, as MBC was the last of Korea’s three free-to-air majors without a channel output deal.
KBS, Korea’s biggest terrestrial broadcaster, operates its own international service KBS World, while Korea's third major network SBS supplies programming for One, a regional channel also serving Southeast Asia run by Sony.
“We are the last to complete the circle,” Ow says. “We know what the winning formula is. We have to improve it."
The success of Korean entertainment channels should open the door for other Asian markets to follow suit, notes Ow, seeking similar tie-ups elsewhere. Any local partner has to align with Turner’s goals however, which is where the options can narrow.
“MBC and Turner coming together is a very rare find in the marketplace,” Ow says. “We share the same vision. We know what we need to do. For other Asian content, we are looking at it. We have a lot of interest but finding the partnerships makes a lot of sense because we are in this for the long run.”
CNN mulls local appeal
Ow is also open to more Asian iterations of CNN, but the need for on-ground investment could deter possible partners. A localized version already airs in India, while Turner also announced a deal for a pay-TV channel in Indonesia earlier this year.
“This is one we really need to understand and carefully craft, to make sure it’s the right partnership for us,” Ow says.
CNN Philippines, due to launch in Q1 next year, will be a free-to-air English language offering run by Nine Media, a local company set up by local businessman Antonio Cabangon-Chua after he bought former government channel, RPN 9.
While the licensing arrangements are similar to CNN Indonesia, the brand is better known in the Philippines, Ow says, giving it more room to grow.
Turner is also looking to bolster its kids presence in Southeast Asia early next year, rolling out a revamped Boomerang as a flagship brand alongside Cartoon Network.
The channel, targeting younger children, is not widely carried in Asia, apart from Thailand where it airs as a popular free satellite offering. It is distributed in Australia, where the remodelled version will unveil in early November.
TV consumption in Asia is both expanding and diversifying, Ow says, prompting broadcasters to up their game.
“The next few years are going to see more competition, whichever genre you are in,” he says. “That’s a fact that we all have to live with.”