Mickey’s mission

Disney Channel sets its sights on India and China

HONG KONG — Seven years, eight Asian countries, and mighty Mickey Mouse is still planning new conquests.

Walt Disney Television launched its first international — and Asian — Disney Channel in Taiwan in 1995 and has since rolled into a string of countries in the region.

Mouse House has its sights set on India and China in the long term, says Doug Miller, new managing director for Walt Disney Television Intl., Asia Pacific.

They are the two major markets for any broadcaster in the region, and Miller foresees little problems in cracking them.

“Everyone connects with the characters, and there are no political issues with them,” he says. “Our mission is to be the No. 1 kids programming in Asia Pacific. But our programming model involves not just children, but the whole family.”

All-day appeal

Disney Channel’s daily programming targets preschoolers in the morning, school-age children in the afternoons and families in the evenings with a 7 p.m. movie. It reaches 8 million subscribers in Australia, Dubai, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and, most recently, South Korea and Indonesia.

The brand’s presence is strong even in markets where Disney Channels don’t exist. Take Hong Kong, where there are Disney shops and a Disney television program on Saturdays — and in three years’ time the Mouse House will open a Disneyland theme park, Asia’s second after Tokyo.

Combined with Disney-branded timeslots and “Disney Club” — locally hosted shows airing on terrestrial networks — more than 300 million households across the region have access to Disney.

Like other international broadcasters in the region, Miller touts the importance of using a combination of local-lingo programming and local staff. “On a business level, you localize so you can display culture through television, rather than showing some Burbank show in Thailand,” Miller says.

The company attempts to find local-lingo equivalents in each market, so that, say, Mickey Mouse in Taiwan sounds similar to Mickey in the U.S. In Taiwan, Disney animation is dubbed and live-action movies are in subtitles. In Singapore, viewers receive an English feed with subtitles.

“As these markets grow and make economic sense, we have to capitalize and start doing local dubbing and Nicam (digital TV sound) dual feed,” says Miller.

Disney’s latest offering to Asia will be “Kim Possible,” already a hit in the U.S., about a schoolgirl who turns into a superagent to save the world. It will premier in Australia in late autumn and roll out in the rest of Asia in December and January.

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