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Asia Prime territory for Beeb

Channel looks to secure key distrib deals in region

HONG KONG — BBC Prime’s bow here on Dec. 1 signals the beginning of a carefully calibrated plan.

“We want to be here for a long time,” says Wayne Dunsford, director of channels for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa for BBC Worldwide.

Therefore, the strategy is to move slowly to make sure the British entertainment channel is done right, he says.

Securing key distribution deals in the region is the priority.

For starters, BBC Prime will be distributed in Hong Kong on PCCW’s Broadband TV service, which had 316,000 subscribers as of June.

In addition to Hong Kong, the focus is on Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand; Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines are being explored.

India, viewed as a separate market, is under review, Dunsford says. He also “is looking for a channel presence in the future” in China.

“We have a goal to achieve break-even in the business in three to four years,” he says.

Over the next year or two, the channel will be rolled out on as many cable platforms as possible in the region, Dunsford says. He expects one or two distribution deals to be announced by the end of the month.

BBC Worldwide has 30 people in Hong Kong working on the business side.

The office also will be home to Anne Chan, BBC Worldwide channel manager (Asia). Chan will work on BBC Prime and focus on increasing distribution, Dunsford says. She reports to Dunsford in London and to John Neill, general manager for BBC Worldwide (Asia) in Hong Kong.

Management, scheduling and programming for BBC Prime will be done from London, with “intensive contact with the Hong Kong office,” Dunsford says.

However, the two channels are “separate operations within the BBC’s commercial group of companies and have different priorities in terms of ad sales and distribution,” says Walter Hellebrand, head of communications at BBC Worldwide for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa.

“At the moment there are no plans to share between the two, although obviously both are working together to promote the BBC brand in Asia.”

BBC news and information channel BBC World is available through cable, satellite and digital to 36 million households across the Asian-Pacific region, and 21 million households across South Asia and the Middle East.

Magz Osborne in Singapore contributed to this report.

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