Asian economic crisis undermines spending

SYDNEY — Asia’s economic crisis caused worldwide advertising expenditure in 1998 to record its lowest annual increase of 3.9% to $300 billion since the 1991 recession, according to research by Zenith Media.

National ad spending slumped 60% in Indonesia, 33.5% in Thailand, 28% in South Korea, 22% in Malaysia, 10% in Singapore, 4% in Japan and 1.2% Hong Kong. Especially hard hit has been TV ad revenues, which have plummeted by up to 50% in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and South Korea.

Bottoming out

While gains in ad spending in Australia, India, China and Taiwan partly offset these dips, ad expenditure across the Asia-Pacific region fell by an “unprecedented” 5.5% in real terms, according to Zenith, which believes the bottom of the cycle has been reached.

For program suppliers dealing in the region, it would be hard to imagine things getting much worse. In the hardest hit markets, suppliers are either going unpaid or stretching payment skeds and even offering 30% discounts.

Import cutbacks

Imports have all but ceased as webs fill their skeds with cheap yakkers and repeats of local fare and cut transmission hours.

During the year, competing cable operators in such markets as Thailand and the Philippines merged — as did pan-regional news channels CNBC Asia and ABN, while MGM Gold went black, and premium imported channels vanished from the lineups of many cash-strapped cablers.

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