More Asian Fare for International

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Looking to mine a burgeoning market, International Channel will revamp its night-time lineup next month to include more Asian-American programming.

Steve Smith — who will assume the title of managing director as the leader of International Channel Networks on Oct. 1, when CEO Kent Rice retires from the now Comcast Corp.-owned property — said the network will double its “Asia Street” block of English-subtitled programming to three hours in October as a means to build viewership among people whose ancestry extends to China, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Thailand and India.

The move will be made to attract more Asian-American viewers, whose ranks are expected to grow from the current 4% of the U.S. populace to 8% over the next 10 years, said Smith.

International Channel also sees opportunities with a group that has an average household income of $55,000, versus $40,000 for all Americans — and one against which Madison Avenue only allocates 5% of the dollars earmarked for media targeting Latinos.

“We believe there is a real upside to reaching out more to Asian-Americans,” said Smith, noting that the expanded block is aimed at reaching second- and third-generation Asians in this country, who are now comfortable with English, and their progeny.

Asia Street Comedy, a stand-up and sketch-comedy show featuring Asian-American comedians; and X Bytes, a high-tech and gadget series, will join the “Asia Street” parcel on Oct. 6. Those shows will join another recent addition to the block: dating show Object of Desire, which bowed on Sept. 1.

Smith said International Channel is in the process of acquiring programming that could lead to further expansion of Asia Street early next year, to as many as six daily hours.

International Channel viewers can expect to see more Japanese anime, films from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and India’s Bollywood, and comedies from Thailand and the Phillipines.

Additionally, International Channel is seeking more Korean drama, a genre growing in popularity that Smith likened to Latino-leaning novellas: “The programming is very expressive, emotional and yes, somewhat racy.”

Smith joined ICN in February after serving as executive vice president and chief operating officer for Starz Encore Group LLC’s Encore International.

Rice said he’s leaving ICN — where he has served as president since 1995, shortly after it was acquired by Liberty Media Corp. — to pursue personal interests, including world travel.

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