Cable Show 2012: Multicultural Viewers Have Appeal - And Choices

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Cable companies have more competition for multi-ethnic viewers than satellite TV firms and telco video providers, especially in the fast-growing Asian-American population.

"The fact is, piracy in the South Asian community is huge," Rajan Singh, executive vice president, international business, for News Corp.'s Star US subsidiary, said during a multicultural-TV panel session here Tuesday at the Cable Show.
Added Suresh Bala Iyer, CEO of Asia TV USA (distributing Zee Channels and Veria TV), "what's happening in this market is it's ‘Napsterizing' to a certain degree."

Channels in Southern Asia have grown fast the last few years, and services selling set-top devices for a one-time fee of $250-$300 that let U.S. residents import live and on-demand TV from India and Pakistan over the Internet have thrived despite legal action taken by legitimate programmers, he said. Customers having paid for the device feel justified in watching the content for free, and having lawyers go after providers such as Jadootv is expensive and ineffective. "It's like swatting mosquitoes on the Amazon," Iyer said.
Southern Asians in the U.S. are three-and-a-half times more likely, versus the general population, to watch 16 video sessions per month, according to Iyer. Interestingly, more than 60% of the content on over-the-top services in question on-demand rather than live, he said, "which tells you there's a huge opportunity for VOD."
"It's a concern," Mediacom Communications programming vice president Glenn Goldsmith acknowledged about piracy, one that distributors and programmers need to police together. As to the VOD opportunity, Goldsmith said VOD server capacity is a similar constraint to overall bandwidth challenges operators face in adding linear channels.
Multicultural audiences have a lot of appeal to programmers and multichannel distributors. The population is growing, and increasingly affluent.
Eric Conrad, vice president of programming at new Spanish-language sports network Univision Deportes, said Univision's viewers also appeal to viewers because they're young: an average age of 27. They're also "fiercely loyal" to the Univision brand, he said.
"We watch a lot of television, we spend a lot of money," Kenetta Bailey, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at African-American-targeted TV One, said.
Comcast vice president of multicultural marketing Adrian Adriano, who joined Bailey and Conrad on a panel, said the top U.S. cable company also is working hard to provide multicultural subscribers with support services in their languages, including a call center in Miami, Fla., staffed with Spanish speakers. "In the field we are really going after multicultural talent," he said.
Bilingual installers also are important in the effort to retain customers, Philip Polk, director of segmentation marketing at Cox Communications, said on the same panel.
"It's a seller's market: you have a lot of choices as a consumer," Polk said. Keeping cable customers happy with their video choices is key because losing those customers can also mean losing phone and Internet service revenue, he said.
Programmers and cable executives on the panels agreed that the general trend toward making content available across multiple devices is key to growing the multicultural-TV business.
The panel sessions were organized by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.

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