INDIA'S UNEVEN PLAYING FIELD
Pressure is mounting on distribution platforms in India, with a new content buying venture between DTH player Dish TV and Siti Cable, both part of the Essel Group, signalling further consolidation to come.
Relations between broadcasters and pay-TV networks are especially fraught at the moment, with a handful of large channel suppliers able to push through higher content pricing in a more fragmented distribution landscape.
Essel Group’s new buying venture, called Comnet, is one response to this, calling for content pricing that is in line with “consumer Arpu and market realities”, according to a company statement.
More consolidation will be needed to even the playing field however, especially among the cable sector, where there remain plenty of obstacles for MSOs seeking higher consumer payments for digital services.
With little headroom to win over new customers however, the investment focus is now shifting to unblocking revenue flows with a better control of the network, and making sure new systems and processes, designed to give subscribers more choice, are in place.
Smaller and independent players, meanwhile, are feeling the full brunt of higher content costs, accelerating further M&A.
FRESH CONTENT FOR BOOMERANG
Turner has commissioned over 200 hours of exclusive original programming for children's network Boomerang, as it seeks to elevate the channel to match the global distribution and clout of its current kids flagship, Cartoon Network.
The new animated shows, from Time Warner sibling Warner Bros, will premiere on Boomerang channels worldwide as well as on Cartoon Network in some territories.
The deal follows a global overhaul of Boomerang initiated last year. The revamped offering first appeared in Latin America and Australia around the last quarter of 2014, ahead of a global rollout in 2015.
The ultimate aim is for Boomerang to sit alongside Cartoon Network on distribution platforms worldwide.
In Asia, Boomerang has already replaced Cartoonito on pay-TV networks in Hong Kong, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore, placing it in around 2 million subscriber homes. Further launches in Southeast Asia are anticipated later this year.
Boomerang also has broad coverage in Thailand, where it reaches around 11 million homes via free satellite, and rates as the Kingdom’s most popular kids channel.
The new commission from Warner Bros is one part of a bigger content overhaul for Boomerang, which had been perceived as a library channel, carrying archive content for longstanding properties such as Tom and Jerry, Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo.
The Warner Bros deal includes new shows featuring characters from Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo.
Turner has also been buying contemporary content for Boomerang from other studios as well, including modern versions of popular franchises such as Garfield, Inspector Gadget and Mr Bean.
CNN BREAKS FROM TV18
Turner is searching for new distribution for CNN in India, after wrapping a licensing deal with Global Broadcast News, majority owned by local broadcaster Network18, which has run the CNN IBN news channel since 2005.
The arrangement will formally end in January in 2016.
Turner executives had opted for a licensing deal for CNN over a possible equity partnership, which arguably would have provided more strategic upside in the long term.
Now Turner has more options for CNN, with the possibility to invest for long-term growth. One likely ally is Zee, which helps distribute Turner channels.
Turner has also continued to license the CNN brand to local broadcasters in Asia, inking deals in Indonesia and the Philippines last year.
RS BOOSTS CHANNEL PORTFOLIO
Thai broadcaster and production house RS, in the process of building out its TV business on free satellite and digital terrestrial platforms, has added another channel to its portfolio, its sixth in total.
The channel, called Ploen TV, formally launched on free satellite at the beginning of July after a trial run in June, targets what RS sees as an under-served segment, the over 55s.
Thailand is demographically older than other growth markets in Southeast Asia, with the senior population to account for 13.4 million people, or 20% of the total population, by 2017, according to RS.
RS executives are targeting US$2 million of revenue for Ploen TV in the second half of 2015, with breakeven inside two years.
Thirty-year-old RS first ventured into the channel business five years ago, initially into free satellite, a platform that has grown rapidly to cover 70% of Thai homes today. In addition to Ploen TV, RS operates four satellite channels as well as a DTT offering, Channel 8.
TV and radio business contributed 78% of RS’s group revenue in 2014, up from 57% the year before. Most of the remainder came from music distribution (~11%, down from 22% in 2013) and events (~11%, down from 20% in 2013).