Tubers talk China

Asia confab puts focus on exploiting TV market

HONG KONG — Last month’s trade deal between the World Trade Organization and China has put the spotlight on China’s nearly 1 billion — and growing — TV viewers.

And participants at the sixth annual Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Assn. of Asia conference and exhibition, which runs through today, flocked to hear experts on this rapidly growing small-screen market shine more light on the subject.

“The WTO does not address broadcasting but it will have a big impact on the way broadcasting rolls out in China,” said Jeanne Marie Gescher, Beijing-based president of Claydon Gescher Associates. While not affecting the small screen, the agreement does deal with the interconnected fields of telecommunications and the Internet.

“Globalization and the WTO, these two key elements will determine a lot,” said N.K. Leung, deputy chief executive of the Phoenix Channel, which is partially owned by News Corp.’s Star TV and has made inroads into the mainland.

Transformation continues

“Everyone will agree that China will continue to transform itself,” Leung continued, but cautioned, “China still treats television as some kind of ideology.”

With 350 million sets across the country, TV has penetrated into 87% of China’s homes, meaning about 200 million people are without service.

“The government initiative is to cover everyone,” said Ma Yuanhe, Hong Kong bureau chief of the state-run China Radio and Television.

Village venture

To that end, the government is attempting to bring TV to the nearly 100,000 villages that remain unplugged. Over the past year alone, 20,000 villages have received a satellite receiver and one television that gets eight channels of state broadcaster CCTV’s programming.

In addition, Ma said cable penetration now stands at 25% and is growing by 5 million to 10 million subs a year.

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