H.K. b’cast confab bracing

HONG KONG — Asian economies may be hemorrhaging, but that’s not preventing the region’s broadcast industry from putting on a brave face at the Cable & Satellite Asia exhibition and conference, which runs today and Thursday at the Hong Kong Convention Center.

With about 100 exhibitors and 350-odd delegates, numbers are down from last year, which may be another sign of the sagging economic indicators across the region. This is also the first time that the event will be held in conjunction with Mip Asia, which runs Thursday through Saturday.

Great expectations

Organizers were hoping the combo would pull in more participants. Mip Asia is expecting nearly 200 exhibitors and 500 buyers.

Clarence Chang, president of the Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Assn. of Asia (Casbaa), which sponsors the conference, said he recognizes the challenges facing the fledgling operators in the region but also sees advantages that a crisis creates.

Though some currencies fell by as much as about 40% against the U.S. dollar, adding significantly to costs, Chang said, “It should also have the effect of sharpening the business activities of some parts of the industry.” And currency devaluations, he added, mean that overseas investors have to look at the region with new eyes.

“Where the cost of entry for overseas investors had been rising steadily over the past five years, it has now dropped back significantly since last summer,” Chang added.

Of course, it’s not possible to gather Asian business leaders without discussing the great opportunities — and pitfalls — that abound in China.

A new look

In fact, this will be the first time that the conference, now in its third year, will be held on Chinese soil. Since the handover from British to Chinese control on July 1, Hong Kong has become a city in China and it’s hoping that position will boost its image as a media hub.

Officials from the mainland Ministry of Radio, Film and Television will be out in force at Cable and Satellite Asia, as they will at Mip Asia. In previous years, mainland government officials stayed away from events in colonial Hong Kong.

The ministry forecasts that there will be 60 million mainland cable subscribers by the end of the year, up almost 10 million over the previous year.

With that growth in China, and also in booming India, has come increased regulation by those governments. At the same time, other countries are relaxing their once uniformly tight restrictions. That confusion and lack of solid guidelines are contributing to the overall feeling of uncertainty in the region, industry officials say.

Temperate climate

Nevertheless, Chang is putting a good face on the situation. “With deregulation spreading slowly across markets running from Japan to the Middle East,” he said, “the investment climate for dollar-denominated, technically experienced international investors of all kinds can only improve.”

Chang also predicted that in the next 12 months, several additional companies will launch Asian digital platforms in places such as Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea and India. And second and third digital platforms will be added in Japan.

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