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Cable Operators

Asian Channel’s New Price: Free

3/21/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Mnet, a cable channel
aimed at Asian-Americans, is
hoping to gain basic-cable carriage
distribution by offering its
service free to operators.

The network, formerly dubbed
ImaginAsian TV, is hoping to
reach young Asian Americans
with a mix of Korean-based music,
films and drama series that
can also have a broader appeal
among mainstream American
audiences, according to Mnet board director Adam Ware.

Currently in 8 million homes through carriage deals with
Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cox Communications
and Verizon Communications, Ware said the
network’s recent relaunch under its new owners — South
Korea-based entertainment company CJ Media purchased
ImaginAsian Entertainment from private investors last year
— should aid the network’s development.

“CJ Media looks at the United States as being an opportunity
to bring what is currently hot in Asia to fans of cool programming,”
Ware said. “We’re not just looking to reach expats.
There’s an opportunity to bring American audiences popular
programming from Asia on a dedicated channel.”

K-POP ON AGENDA

Th e network will launch several new, mostly Englishlanguage
series that focus on emerging Korean K-pop
music genre, English-dubbed films that showcase Asia’s
popular horror, anime and sci-fi genres, and Korean
soap-opera “dramas.” Among the new shows set to debut
on the channel later this year are BPM, an original daily
strip series that highlights the latest trends in Asian pop
culture, and Short Notice, a two-hour weekly series that
showcases the best of Asian-American short fi lms.

The network has also acquired a package of 40 featurelength
films from China, Thailand, the Philippines, Japan and
Korea for distribution during a primetime block on Friday
and Saturday nights, and has teamed with Japan-based anime
production company Bandai Entertainment to create a
Wednesday-night block featuring popular anime series.

The network, which will launch an HD feed in fourth quarter
2011, will offer a significant amount
of music videos and anime product on
its website, according to the network.

Mnet will look to mine a category
that has traditionally been
underserved on cable outside of
foreign-language channels. Comcast
attempted to fill the void in the
mid 2000s with the AZN Network,
but pulled the plug in 2008, deeming
it financially unsustainable.

In an effort to gain increased distribution,
Ware said the network
will forgo distributor licensing fees
and concentrate on generating revenue via ad sales.

UPSCALE DEMOS

The network’s target 18-to-49-year-old Asian-American
audience delivers upscale demos. Asian-Americans more
than $550 billion in annual buying power, and have a personal
average income of nearly $60,000, more than whites
or any other ethnic group, according to the network.

“As nice and reliable as a sub fee is, it doesn’t really require
you to push really hard to build out programming efforts,
which are mostly supported by advertisers,” he said.

Ware added the network is pushing for basic-tier carriage
rather than distribution via traditional ethnic-themed and
foreign-language tiers. “We are a youth lifestyles channel
akin to MTV, BET and E!,” he said. “We would like to build
this marketplace to the widest possible audience.”

Ware said the network would be a perfect fit for Comcast,
which has expressed plans to launch several minority-
targeted networks as part of its merger deal with NBC
Universal.

Representatives from Comcast could not be reached for
comment by press time.

September