Interview With AXN Asia
will be pumping money here to help grow the market
and benefit from it."
on 23 July 2002
Ho is an old hand at the broadcasting business. He cut his
teeth in the cable and satellite industry with Asia Business
News, where he managed the regional distribution sales of
ABN in South-East Asia.
Following its merger with CNBC, Ho became the regional advertising
sales manager for S-E Asia. At AXN, Ho handles the network's
Asiawide marketing strategy including overseeing all viewer
and trade marketing activities as well as corporate and
public relations. Among his achievements since joining AXN
are the launch of the network's website and several signature
viewer events including the AXN Anime Festival and the AXN
Ho, who was in Mumbai recently for the 'Be a World Record
Holder' event, took time off for a tete-a-tete with indiantelevision.com's
Are you satisfied with the response the Guinness world record
initiative has received in India and other Asian countries?
The AXN Be A World Record Holder presented by HP
Deskjet was a promotional initiative for one of our most
successful reality programmes - Guinness World Records
Primetime which airs on AXN at 9 pm every Wednesday.
This was a "first of its kind" promotional effort for the
show and was done only in India. We received over 6,000
entries and are extremely pleased with the support our viewers
have given us. The brave guys and gals who attempted to
break/set new world records have done not just themselves
and AXN proud but also, I believe, the whole of India should
also be proud of their achievement. They are outstanding
role models in the community and their feats have been submitted
to the Guinness World of Records for verification.
Looking at Asia as a whole, how do you break up the markets?
Well, we have three dedicated feeds - Taiwan, India, and
South-East Asia, which is the way we look at it from a marketing
perspective. However, we do not look at South-East Asia
as one market. The Philippines, Hong Kong and the rest of
South-East Asia is how we have broken it up. Our biggest
market is Taiwan, which interestingly has a 95 per cent
cable penetration. It is the most competitive market, but
also our cash cow. In some ways there are some similarities
to India in the way the business is organised as far as
the distribution side is concerned. There are five major
players with the rest being made up of mom and pop operations.
As far as overall revenues are concerned, what's coming
in from where?
Taiwan accounts for 40 per cent of our revenues, India 30
per cent and South-East Asia the remaining 30 per cent.
In Taiwan, 60 per cent of our revenues are from distribution
while 40 per cent comes in from advertising. In India, it
is the exact opposite with 60 per cent from advertising
and 40 per cent through distribution.
What has your revenue growth been like?
Well, we have just changed our accounting year to March
to March, so there is some reorganisation as far as budgeting
is concerned. Still, we have grown 100 per cent over the
last year. Of course, it should be noted that this has been
achieved from a small base. After all, we're only five years
old (come September).
plan to launch in (South) Korea by January. The soft
launch of the Korea feed will be in December."
What are your main focus areas in Asia?
We're still growing. We plan to launch in (South) Korea
by January. The soft launch of the Korea feed will be in
December. We're also looking at China, which is what everyone
is looking at. In terms of real growth numbers it is China,
India and Indonesia that are the three countries in Asia
that everyone would like to get into. China is still a restricted
market and there is too much instability in Indonesia so
at the moment the only market where we're confident of immediate
results is India. So, we will be pumping money here (India)
to help grow the market and benefit from it.
How successful has the channel been in growing the brand
among the advertising community in India and Asia over the
As a relatively young brand not even five years old, AXN
has achieved a remarkable level of awareness amongst the
advertising trade. Our relative success is best evidenced
by the large number of advertising clients already on the
channel from blue chip multinationals such as MSN, Samsung
and Ford to leading local corporations like Videocon International,
NIIT and Shaw Wallace.
Have any targets been set for the channel in terms of
viewership and revenue?
Our target is to maintain consistent ratings and our position
amongst the top international channels in India. In advertising
revenue, we are pacing well to achieve growth over last
India and Indonesia are the three countries in Asia
that everyone would like to get into. China is still
a restricted market and there is too much instability
in Indonesia so at the moment the only market where
we're confident of immediate results is India. "
What other brand building on ground initiatives will roll
out to push on air programming and increase ground presence
during the course of the year?
Viewers can look forward to several more exciting promotions
in the months ahead including the AXN Action Movie Festival:
a 10-city tour across India starting in September stretching
over five months. A whole week of action movie screenings
at a leading cinema in each city with tickets given out
to viewers. This is the third year of what has become an
established and highly anticipated promotion.
Is the channel planning to build the online community
further on axnasia.com by introducing interactive features
like broadband which would give the site a more interactive
feel? A possibility could be seeing brief previews of new
shows in 3D.
Our on-line ambitions are relatively modest as our primary
focus is still very much on building the core brand of the
television network. Having said that, the website is regarded
as an important means by which we build "bridges" to our
viewers and interact with them directly. As such, we do
already have a level of interactivity on our website that
goes beyond the "usual" programming and corporate information.
Monthly contests, an extremely active forum, regular voting
polls and unique content not found even on the channel has
enabled us to grow our on-line community to 70,000 members
and an average traffic of 3.2 - 3.4 million page views per
month. And 38.5 per cent of our membership is from South
Asia. We are definitely looking at more interactive elements
and features in the future.
Are there any plans for tie ups with FMCGs concerning
cross promotional activity?
We have noticed an increased demand from advertising clients
for creative solutions that encompass on-air, on-line and
on-the-ground exposure for their brands. This is not a trend
unique to India as we move increasingly towards a true partnership
relationship as opposed to a supplier-buyer relationship,
and AXN has been at the forefront of offering such integrated
solutions. Recent examples include the Pepsi and the AXN
Action Movie Festival, Samsung and Action Movie Premieres,
and HP Deskjet and the AXN Be A World Record Holder
Instead of merely offering trips to Los Angeles, how about
promoting action films like MIB 2 and Minority
Report in the Asian region by having the stars like
Tom Cruise visit other Asian countries besides Japan?
While it is an extremely difficult and costly investment
to get Hollywood stars and celebrities to go on an Asian
road show, AXN has nevertheless already done so as we do
recognise the appeal of such publicity tours.
Last year, we brought the lead actress of the popular action
series Sheena - Gena Lee Nolin - out for a two-city
(Mumbai and Delhi) five day visit to India. This was her
very first visit to Asia and as an indication of how important
the India market is to us, we chose to bring her to India
and to spend the most time in this market even though her
show is also extremely popular in many other countries.
This year, we will be bringing Australian cricket and TV
celebrity Mike Whitney on a five-city tour of India.
What about launching merchandise connected to programmes
like Who Dares Wins and Guinness Book of World
Records in terms of books, music CDs, posters? I make
a reference here to Cartoon Network which has managed to
leverage brands such as Scooby Doo and the Powerpuff Girls
This is an area that we have recognised as having great
future potential for us as our brand AXN continues to grow
from strength to strength. Our initial efforts which are
designed more to increase brand visibility rather than create
a new revenue stream have been reasonably successful and
include a collaboration with Sony Music for an AXN Action
Movie Hits CD / cassette music compilation as well as a
collaboration with Milestone Interactive to create a package
of four action oriented computer game software - WOW
AXTION! Both are currently available for purchase in
from our perspective does not necessarily have to
be in the form of dubbing or subtitling of programmes
or local production. We view our aggressive efforts
in creating events as another form of localisation
as the ultimate objective of any localisation effort
is to create greater relevance with the viewer."
In terms of distribution, how has the channel been faring
in India and Asia?
AXN continues to show strong growth in distribution. AXN
is now available in over 30 million homes across 16 countries.
In S-E Asia, we are now available as a basic channel on
every major pay TV system. In India, we are seen in over
21 million households.
What about the possibility of the channel forging an alliance
with regional channels for dubbed programmes to appear as
AXN is already an integral part of the strongest alliances,
the Sony bouquet. Our distribution activities are also undertaken
by the One Alliance, which boasts some of the best international
TV channels and the Sony channels.
Our research tells us that the majority of AXN viewers prefer
English as the broadcast language. As we penetrate deeper
and deeper into India however, we are constantly evaluating
this language opportunity.
Localisation from our perspective does not necessarily have
to be in the form of dubbing or subtitling of programmes
or local production. We view our aggressive efforts in creating
events as another form of localisation as the ultimate objective
of any localisation effort is to create greater relevance
with the viewer.
How has the channel been faring in terms of audience share
vis-a-vis rivals like HBO and Star Movies over the past
We are a "unique content channel" - the only network in
India/Asia focussed on action and adventure and the only
channel to offer a diversity in programming that ranges
from popular action movies and action series to lifestyle
sports and adventure and reality programmes. We are not
a movie channel.
AXN is consistently amongst the top performing international
channels in terms of audience share. Unlike movie channels,
the ratings for which fluctuate according to the "hit /
blockbuster" movie being screened, AXN has the advantage
of different types of programmes such as weekly action series
and adventure-reality programmes which establish a loyal
base of viewers and help us maintain a consistent high level
of viewership week in, week out.
When there are so many options available to the advertiser,
as well as the viewer, is it not increasingly difficult
to hold attention. What is AXN's value proposition?
In this type of a market, your branding and programming
is critical. And this is the way cable TV is going to develop.
We have to build a very clear idea of what we offer and
what our key proposition is. That is what you offer to the
viewer. I think a lot of channels get muddled in that area.
Our proposition is very clear - action adventure. And we
have to stay true to that. Clearly, we have achieved some
level of success. We are the first with that and my job
is to keep that lead and reinforce it to the viewer.