Wed, Jul 16, 2003 - Page 10 News List

Eastern Multimedia sets sights on US satellite-TV market

NICHE PROGRAMMING ETTV's deal will provide more Mandarin channels for the growing demand for Chinese-language entertainment and news

By Bill Heaney  /  STAFF REPORTER

Burgeoning demand for Chinese-language TV programs overseas may bode well for a Taiwanese media group that has broadened its vision beyond the nation's borders.

Eastern Multimedia Group's (東森媒體集團) US subsidiary ETTV America Corp (東森美洲電 ) signed an agreement this weekend with Denver, Colorado-based EchoStar Satellite Corp, an Eastern Multimedia official confirmed yesterday.

"The new service will begin this fall," Eastern Multimedia spokesman Fred Steiner said by telephone from Los Angeles.

"Any Chinese speaker within the US can select to have the new package," he said.

EchoStar's Dish Network broadcasts 500 channels in 42 languages directly to more than 8.5 million households in the US, Steiner said.

The Dish Network currently offers only three Chinese-language channels in its Chinese Plus Pack: ATV Home Network from Hong Kong in Cantonese, CCTV-4 from China in Mandarin and Phoenix North America Chinese Channel, which broadcasts a variety of material from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China, mainly in Mandarin.

By pairing up with ETTV, the network can now add five more channels: ET-News, ET-Global, ET-Drama, and Yoyo TV children's channel, as well as JET TV from Japan with Chinese subtitles.

Eastern Multimedia already beams 11 channels via satellite to the US for local cable operators. By 2006, the company hopes to reach 1 million households across the country.

International services are expected to account for 25 to 30 percent of ETTV revenue by then, Steiner said.

ETTV's service is already available in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. By fall, Chinese speakers in the US, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and other areas of Southeast Asia will be able to tune into ETTV channels.

ETTV has a large potential audience in the US. According to the most recent US census figures, there were 2.88 million Chinese-Americans -- including Taiwanese-Americans -- in 2000, which represents 1.02 percent of the population.

"The majority of immigrants in the future will be Chinese," Steiner said. "They will want programs in Mandarin."

New immigrants aren't the only ones hankering after Chinese TV programs.

Julie Chang (張喻女閒), a computer programmer in her 20s, studied at high school and college in San Francisco for 10 years. Chang regularly watched three Chinese channels which offered locally produced news in Mandarin and international content from China, Taiwan and Japan.

"They were the only choices we had," Chang said. "Of course I'd be glad to see the new ETTV channels. More choice is good."

But ETTV may not be able to reach the children of Chinese immigrants, who are more interested in the same programming that their peers watch.

"First generation children like me gravitated towards Sesame Street and what the other kids were watching," said Sherry Liu, general manager of Crown Worldwide Movers Ltd in Taipei, who grew up in Wisconsin.

Liu's parents may be more interested in ETTV's new service since they can't watch Chinese-language programs on TV.

"My parents accessed Chinese entertainment by renting videos," she said.

ETTV may have a lock on overseas marketing as its rivals in Taiwan show no signs of following its global trail.

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