Oz pubcaster sez ad base too thin for Asian satellite

SYDNEY — Asia, heralded as the major growth area for satellite television, cannot support all the television operations planned for the region, according to Australia Television, or AT, one of the smallest players.

AT chief David Hill, general manager of the government-owned Australian Broadcasting Corp., Wednesday said the Asian advertising market was not big enough to support the “dozens, if not scores” of operators vying for a place.

“The pan-Asian advertising market is very small,” Hill told a luncheon in Sydney.

“I think there will emerge a greater pan-Asian advertising market that will support more, but you are already talking about dozens, if not scores, wanting to provide a service. There is not enough of an advertising budget to go around.”

Hill said AT would survive, despite its small size — it enjoys an advantage over bigger competitors like Atlanta-based CNN, Britain’s BBC and Rupert Murdoch’s Star TV because it operates on a low capital base and produces its own programs.

“All of the other operators are going to find — particularly if they have to buy programs — that they will be losing a lot of money,” he said.

AT began broadcasting in February 1993 with a meager government grant of Australian $ 5.5 million ($ 3.9 million). It now boasts a potential audience of 24 million and broadcasts an uncoded signal to 15 countries in Asia.

Hill said AT was supported by Australian corporations including Qantas Airways Ltd., telecommunications group Telstra, the AMP life insurance group and Fosters brewing group.

“As we will dominate the Australian corporate sector, I feel comfortable AT’s financial future is secure,” Hill said.

AT broadcasts in English but plans to begin Cantonese-, Mandarin- and Indonesian-language services later this year.

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