RTL Group Asia Baywatch

Compared with its U.S. counterparts, RTL Group was a latecomer in South and East Asia. While HBO has been implanted in the region for some 20 years, the media giant just made its first move in 2012.

RTL Group chose the frenetic Indian market for its debut, launching BIG RTL Thrill in November 2012 as a joint venture with Reliance ADA Group’s Reliance Broadcast Network channel management unit.

BIG RTL Thrill is a specialty network targeting men age 15-44 with content ranging from action series to extreme sports to action movies — a genre that is never to be underestimated in India. Drawing on international content from FremantleMedia, Endemol and Red Bull — it even revived “Baywatch” — the channel was presented with a dubbed Hindi feed and started out only in Uttar Pradesh province, where synergies with Reliance’s 92.7 BIG FM radio station may have helped. Since then it has expanded to other key cities, to the DTH Dish Network and been given an English feed.

Having debuted in India, RTL Group next went to Southeast Asia, in partnership with CBS Studios Intl.

Headquartered in Singapore, RTL CBS Asia Entertainment kicked off last year by announcing two channels targeting 29 territories between Taiwan in the North and Indonesia in the South.

The RTL CBS Entertainment channel, which took to the air in September packages together a mix of hit shows from both its parents: RTL Group and FremantleMedia’s “The X Factor,” “America’s Got Talent,” and “Celebrity Apprentice”; and CBS’ “Elementary,” “Under the Dome” and “Entertainment Tonight.”

Its latest addition in Southeast Asia, RTL CBS Extreme, bowed March 27 in Singapore, and focuses on action adventure, reality series and extreme sports, with shows such as “Fear Factor,” “Red Bull,” “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “Hawaii Five-O.”

RTL Group says it’s pursuing a low-risk model for entering the Asian markets, teaming up with a top U.S. player and discussing channel concepts with local platform partners ahead of the channel launch, making sure there is consumer demand.

As for more channels in the Asian market, RTL Group is taking a wait-and-see approach — if the two enterprises are successful, there is room for further investment.

That’s all very new for the Euro media giant, but if the wider Asia-Pacific region is considered, RTL Group has some very deep roots in Australia. While RTL is not a broadcaster in Australia, the country is home to Grundy Television, which some 55 years ago began producing “Wheel of Fortune.” The company became one of the world’s largest program producers and distributors before being sold in 1995 to Pearson Television. After its merger in 2000 with CLT, London-based Pearson Television took on the name FremantleMedia, which it retains today.

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