Asian Indie Feels Crunch

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Adam Ware joined ImaginAsian Entertainment and became president of IA Media in May. Since then, he has repositioned the Asian American-targeted ImaginAsian TV network as IA TV, with a focus on pop culture from that continent. He has also cut staff and outsourced creative services. A former chief operating officer at UPN and executive vice president of USA Networks, Ware recently spoke to Multichannel News contributor Luis Clemens. An edited transcript follows:

MCN: How has the credit crisis affected you?

Adam Ware: We were in the process of a funding round with this new strategy and new focus. It was quite imminent. It fell apart, in essence, because of the funding crisis. We had to take our existing funds now and structure them over a longer period of time, because the money that we were going to get, which was coming from more institutional investment, that basically froze because of what’s been going on.

MCN: How many people have you let go, and how much are you outsourcing?

AW: I am going to say I let go of half, maybe a little bit more because we had freelancers. I would say from 14 to twenty-ish, maybe 16, but again we have freelancers so it is not really apples to apples. The staff that’s left is probably a little leaner than I would like at this stage, but we are sort of forced into that place because of what everyone is experiencing lately. In terms of outsourcing, virtually all of the creative for on-air has been outsourced. I don’t mean the programming, I mean the schedules.

MCN: How do you compete as an independent?

AW: I came to the company back in May. And there were several main issues for the channel. One was this tremendous burn, just cash going out the door to support a whole range of functions. The second element was that the company tried to be a multimedia company very early on. We were in the DVD-distribution business, the theatrical-distribution business, in the theater-management business. Looks great on paper. The reality is it was a flawed plan because it never really dealt with the core asset.

Third, the strategy itself was that of everything to everybody. There was no real focus as to what specific part of the target audience you wanted to reach. I think the tagline was 'all things Asian.’ That’s a pretty tall order to fulfill.

So what I did, and the people there were already thinking this way, was to say, 'OK, how do we take this thing and focus it.’ Better analogy is to use an aviation comparison. How do we take a channel that, let’s just say, is sort of like TWA. How do we take TWA and turn it into Virgin Atlantic? And do that in three months?

The good news is that you can get it done.

MCN: A few months ago, you expected to hit the 10 million subscriber mark by the end of the year. Is that still the case?

AW: Probably not.

MCN: What has changed?

AW: I would say we are still going to grow. We’ll still probably get to 7 million, but our hopes to conclude certain deals in certain markets did not happen. Partly because of our own inability to help support those launches and partly because of the digital conversion where everyone is having to deal with the spectrum crisis. And therefore no one is really doing any new carriage deals — period.

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