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Bucking the trend on bidding war

Channel to appeal to affluent, educated twentysomethings and up

SINGAPORE — In the U.S. and Europe it would be a minor miracle: Upstart Singapore channel TV Works has bought a huge volume of movies and series from U.S. majors without getting into a ruinous bidding war with incumbent broadcast group Media Corp.

English-lingo TV Works and its sister, Mandarin-language Channel U, both launch May 21, challenging Media Corp.’s monopoly.

Yet talk to reps and it’s clear they avoided bidding up the license fees beyond the point either felt was uneconomic in this island-state of 4 million people.

“U.S. product plays an important role, and we’re fortunate to have good relationships with the majors,” says Kenneth Tan, chief operating officer of Media Corp. TV. “But I don’t see any sense in bidding spiraling until it reaches the point where it is uneconomic for us.”

Questioning the quiz

Jamal Hassim, COO of English media & entertainment at Singapore Press Holdings-backed MediaWorks, agrees.

He withdrew from bidding for local rights to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” which went to Media Corp. Hassim is developing what he hopes will be a killer quiz, which he’s keeping under wraps.

Among Hassim’s big purchases are Columbia TriStar packages including the movies “Godzilla,” “As Good as It Gets” and “Wild Things,” all firstrun in Singapore, as well as “Seinfield,” which he believes still has mileage here.

Hassim doesn’t mind picking up WB series such as “The Drew Carey Show,” “Crusade,” “How Do They Do That?” and “World Championship Wrestling” which was left out of a package that Media Corp. acquired.

They are the kind of offerings Hassim believes will appeal to his target aud of affluent, educated twentysomethings and up.

At Media Corp., execs are bracing themselves for aud erosion. “When you have a new entrant, a loss of 10% to 15% can be expected,” Tan says.

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