Asia Launch

China Entertainment Television, a Mandarin-language satellite service offering “no sex, no violence and no news” to viewers in China, will launch March 11 with 24-hour programming.

Fronted by Hong Kong entrepreneur Robert Chua, CETV has been broadcasting 12 hours a day since Dec. 1 in a “soft launch” period. But Chua will be offering six hours of new programming per day from March 11, with the rest made up of repeat blocks.

Chua is targeting Mandarin-speaking viewers throughout Southeast Asia with CETV, broadcasting from the Chinese-owned Apstar-1 satellite, but his main focus is on mainland China’s 200 million TV households. He has signed agreements with Singapore Cable Vision, CMC in Taiwan, which he says will deliver 1.3 million and 1.7 million households, respectively, on launch, and he has letters of intent from “several” cable companies in China.

The question asked, over and over again, however, is where Chua got the money to launch CETV. Originally, he estimated start-up costs at $100 million, which were dramatically revised to $30 million over the first year, with $10 million in launch costs. It didn’t come from his own pocket – the very studio he operates from in Kowloon is rented, and he says he put only HK$500,000 (less than $1 million) of his own money into CETV.

Chua has signed an agreement with the umbrella TV organization Central TV in China to rebroadcast blocks of CETV on 10 stations representing 36% of the viewing audience in China.

Wholly advertiser-supported, Chua’s CETV will go free-to-air for the first year and has signed Proctor & Gamble, Lauda Air and Chinese property and consumer products companies as founder advertisers.

Chua’s rates range from $800 for a 30-second spot in fringe periods to $3,800 for a 30-second slot in primetime. Chua says CETV will have no way to accurately monitor audience ratings until the middle of the year.

Chua has set CETV’s content at one-third locally produced, one-third international programming and the final third from the Hong Kong archives of government station RTHK International programming already slotted on CETV includes “PM Magazine,” “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” and “Hello Austria.”

At the moment the service goes out unencrypted, though Chua plans to start charging subscription fees by the end of 1996. CETV hopes to break even by the end of 1996.

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