Satellite

Satellite Ops Make Asian Push

11/07/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. have both launched new marketing initiatives aimed at mining new subscribers from U.S. Asian communities.

It might be the Year of the Monkey on the Chinese calendar, but Dish Network marketers are hoping it’s also the year of acceptance for the “Great Wall Package.”

The direct-broadcast satellite company has created a 17-channel package of networks in various Chinese dialects to attract émigrés from throughout that nation. The package is priced at $29.99; equipment and installation are offered at no charge.

NO BUY-THROUGHS

There are no buy-through provisions for this package: Chinese consumers do not have to purchase a basic English-language suite to get programming from their homeland.

The last federal census identified Asians as the fastest-growing population segment, noted EchoStar spokeswoman Julie Popp. Of those, 81% indicated Chinese is spoken at home by at least some extended family members.

Network officials are sure the packaging will be very popular, since executives are already getting thank-you e-mail messages from consumers who’ve already heard about the package, which officially launched Sept. 30.

The “Great Wall” strategy is very similar to the one behind Dish Latino, a multiple-channel package for the Spanish-speaking market. As with that language package, Chinese consumers will be able to order premium versions of their package, where English-language channels are added to the combination at escalating prices based on the number of channels, up to a total of about 175.

The Great Wall package includes 12 Mandarin, two Cantonese and one Fujianese dialect channels, one English channel and one Spanish/French channel. Dish Network now offers more than 90 International channels in 20 languages.

The channels include CCTV-4 (general entertainment), CCTV-9 (English language coverage of China), CCTV-Spanish/French; CCTV-Opera, CCTV Entertainment, China Movie Channel, Beijing TV, Shanghai TV, Guandong TV, Jiangsu TV, Fujian TV, Hunan TV, Shanxi TV, Phoenix North American Chinese Channel (also available a la carte), Phoenix InfoNews, ATV Home Channel (Cantonese) and Pacvia TV (Chinese-produced dramas).

Popp said the network is always exploring the possibility of adding programming in more language groups, but no announcements are imminent.

DirecTV has also broadened its Asian reach, launching VietnameseDirect on Sept. 30. That targets the estimated 1.8 million émigrés throughout the U.S.

The DBS service has added Saigon Broadcasting Television Network, a joint venture of International Channel Networks and Saigon Broadcasting Networks Inc. SBTN is a 24-hour channel originating from within the U.S.

The Vietnamese programming is $14.99 per month, and subscribers must buy through at least a basic English programming package priced at $9.99 a month for about 50 channels, including local broadcast stations. It can also be added to any of DirecTV’s Total Choice branded programming packages.

SBTN is currently available on some cable systems, executives said, but did not have national reach until the DirecTV deal.

Tara Tran, a dealer to the Vietnamese community, was delighted by the announcement. Her store, Viet Satellite, is located in Westminster, Calif., perhaps the largest Vietnamese community outside of the home country. The store advertises to Vietnamese-Americans throughout the U.S., Tran said.

Despite her national reach, she described her business as merely “good” before the advent of in-language broadcasting.

'A PERFECT PRODUCT’

“I now have a perfect product,” she said. Tran learned English by watching television when she immigrated here, she said.

“We don’t want to lose contact [with Vietnam],” she said. “We want this for our children.” Tran has already received calls from as far away as Virginia inquiring about the new programming product, she said.

Aaron McNally, executive vice president of DirecTV Inc., said the channel should be attractive to the “three families we know of in Helena, Mt., to the 300 in Norfolk, Va., to the 300,000-plus in Southern California.”

Lack of Vietnamese programming has been a “huge issue” for selected retailers, he said. Other language group-based packages could be announced within weeks, he said.

September