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Global,India,Hong Kong,China

Round-Up: BBC, TVB, Hinduja + More

 

RECALIBRATION FOR BBC WORLDWIDE

The BBC, the world’s largest public service broadcaster, is entering a politically charged review in its home market in the UK, including a possible spin-off of part or all of its international arm, BBC Worldwide.

BBC Worldwide is faring relatively well, thanks to a strong pipeline of content, especially in the factual space that the BBC can fully deploy now content commitments to Discovery, stemming from a former JV to run Animal Planet, have run their course.

This has opened the door for a new documentary offering, BBC Earth, which should start to roll out in Southeast Asia from Q4 this year.

The channel has already launched in several European markets after making its global debut in Poland in February.

Expansion for the BBC’s factual offering in India also looks likely, reportedly via a JV with Sony that could be finalized sometime in the next quarter.

Overall, BBC Worldwide generates about US$150 million in Asia-Pacific on an annualized basis, according to estimates from Media Partners Asia. Australia is its largest market in the region by far.

Globally, the levers of growth are changing however, following the sale of 49.9% of BBC America to AMC Networks last year. Talk also persists of a possible sale of the BBC's stake in UKTV to JV partner Scripps.

In addition to the rollout of BBC Earth, likely to be a formidable presence in the factual space, BBC Worldwide should consequently step up its digital presence with a rollout of iPlayer too, potentially together with its in-market pay-TV partners.

 

HINDUJA'S HITS OFFER ARRIVES

The Hinduja Group’s US$80 million bet on headend-in-the-sky (HITS) technology – a possible answer to the digitalization challenge facing thousands of small cable networks in India – has finally arrived.

The new platform, dubbed Nxt Digital, will launch and commence rollout next month, the company announced yesterday.

Hinduja has bridged formidable delays in bringing the service to market, absorbing heavy upfront investment costs in the process.

The timing, however, looks just right.

The first two stages of the government timetable for digital TV have concentrated on bigger cities, where MSOs and DTH operators have their strongholds.

Phase III however, scheduled for December, includes the smaller towns that Nxt Digital was designed for.

MSOs, which have played a key role in India's cable digitalization so far, are far less visible in Phase III (and almost non-existent in Phase IV).

DTH platforms, meanwhile, will struggle to match LCOs in these dispersed geographies on depth of local content.

HITS – able to access bandwidth from several satellites at the same time – can combine strength of locality, with a national footprint, making it a strong contender for the next and final stages of digital upgrades.

Hinduja’s challenge will be persuading local operators to sign up for services offered by Nxt Digital, needing a footprint of around 6-8 million homes for a return on its initial investment.

If successful, MSOs may follow suit, using HITS technology as a way to expand their own presence in Phase III and IV areas. This could be in collaboration with India’s other HITS license-holder, JainHITS, which has struggled to build scale.

 

TVB SHAREHOLDERS JOIN WITH TENCENT FOR RETAIL ACQUISITION

TVB shareholders Li Ruigang (also chairman of private equity firm CMC Partners), and Charles Chan (TVB chairman), together with Chinese online giant Tencent, have joined up to buy Chinese retail firm Meike.

Ruigang will own 64% of the business; Tencent, 25%; Chan, 5%; and the public, 3%.

Meike, which operates 306 outlets in eastern China as well as an export business, generated RMB163 million (US$26.6 million) revenue in 2014. The company has been losing money since 2012.

 

ZEE: FOCUS ON &TV AND SPORTS

India media major Zee saw advertising grow by 25% Y/Y during its June 2015 quarter, driven by economic rebound, increased market share and growth at its &TV and Zindagi channels, two of the most recent additions to its portfolio.

Improved ratings at Zee's regional channels also helped the cause.

Excluding losses at &TV, Ebitda expanded 20% Y/Y. Zee's sports business registered some profit but may be challenged to sustain such profitability over the course of Zee's FYE March 2016.

“&TV has made a strong debut but its ratings market share has stabilized and investors are now focused on how much cash is spent to take it to the next level (breakeven),” says MPA India VP, Mihir Shah.

"Zee’s traditional business is doing well but the key is the digital business and investing for that future. There is a lot of embedded value in digital which no-one is accounting for yet, and will also take time to deliver, but it is key,” Shah adds.

“On sports, Zee has some valuable assets but the key is maybe finding a partner to unlock value through a stake sale and partnership. That could be important going forward."

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