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Astro Chief Rohana Rozhan, Variety Award Honoree, Looks to Build on Strengths

Speaking at TV conference and market MipTV in Cannes, France, on Monday, where she received Variety’s Achievement in International Television Award, Rohana Rozhan, group CEO and executive director of Malaysian media group Astro, emphasized that the company would play to its strengths as the market evolved.

Two decades after its launch, the satellite television company, which started off as a purely pay-TV operator, has extended its business into free-TV, streaming, mobile, e-commerce, e-sports and gaming, and is involved in the production of TV shows and films. Astro reaches 75% of households in Malaysia, and is now extending its footprint into other markets in South-East Asia.

The company has 5.5 million customers, of which 3.3 million are pay-TV customers. Chord-cutting is not an issue: churn for pay customers is “global best in class” at 9.6% amortization, she said.

“We have always seen ourselves as more of a consumer company [than a pay-TV company], and that has always been a core-strength and a core-focus of ours,” Rozhan said. “And we have always broken it down into three major pillars: as far as we are concerned, as I said, we are a consumer company, we are a content company, and we are about bringing the right experience and the right value proposition to each and every costumer.”

She said that what differentiates the company is that it has “a second-to-none team who are really good at executing our plans.”

When the company launched, the handful of free-TV channels that existed in Malaysia were obliged to air 80% of their shows in the Malay language, so Astro focused on foreign shows to offer an alternative. The company launched with 23 channels, which were a mixture of Indian, Chinese and international channels. “What Malaysians were missing at that time was choice,” Rozhan said.

Astro realized that it needed local content as well to get to a higher level of penetration in the market. “People need to see and hear languages and people on TV that reflect the marketplace,” she said. This led to a greater investment in local content, and the launch of the digital service Njoi, which gives consumers free access to 29 channels. “That widens our reach and by virtue of that, we get a bigger reach, a bigger engagement and then we become more relevant to advertisers,” she said.

The company is now looking beyond the borders of Malaysia for future growth, and it has started to produce content for neighboring countries like Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand, such as “Polis Evo 2” with a partner in Indonesia. “The time is right for collaboration with like-minded partners,” she said. “We are not egotistical enough to think we can do it all on our own.”

Regarding local censorship, Rozhan said that they wanted a “level playing-field,” where all outlets – including online operators – were governed by the same regulations regarding permissible content.

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