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Media giants join forces for two new Asia-geared cable channels

By: - Writing Editor
/ 12:53 AM May 21, 2014

KEVIN Spacey and Robin Wright play a powerful couple in “House of Cards”

Top European TV network RTL has joined forces with seasoned American mass media company CBS, creating cable channels for Southeast Asia: RTL CBS Entertainment and RTL CBS Extreme.

“The biggest broadcaster in Europe, RTL has multiple channels and owns FremantleMedia, which in turn owns ‘American Idol’ and ‘X Factor,’” RTL CBS country head Rene Esguerra disclosed at the recent launch of the show “House of Cards” at Power Plant Mall in Makati City.

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“The partnership of RTL and CBS is basically a joint venture that’s only for Southeast Asia. Our advantage is our access to content, probably the best in the world.”

The joint venture was formed in 2013. RTL CBS Entertainment was launched in August last year while RTL CBS Extreme was launched in March this year.

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Formidable deal

Jonas Engwall, CEO of RTL CBS, expounded that the deal is a formidable one: “RTL has more than 50 channels and 30 radio stations across 10 countries… while CBS is the biggest broadcaster in the United States and  produces some great shows.”

According to Engwall, the two channel launches are “quite unique” in the territory. “Normally, when someone launches a channel, it takes years to build content,” he said. “We came at it from a different perspective. We tried to launch with great content from Day One. We also buy third-party content. Ultimately, what differentiates us is having great content, which is what viewers want.”

RTL CBS, Engwall said, has a balance between reality and drama. “There’s a nice mix: ‘Late Show With David Letterman,’ ‘Entertainment Tonight,’ ‘Elementary,’ ‘X Factor UK,’ ‘Under the Dome’ and ‘House of Cards’ … They appeal to both males and females. The whole family can watch television together.”

Esguerra added that the Philippines was a special market for RTL CBS. “The ad sales market is vibrant here,” he said. “In the Philippines, ad sales spending is very high. We want a piece of that particular pie.”

Esguerra elaborated: “What I’ve discovered after 20 years in the cable industry is that Filipino cable TV subscribers are some of the most sophisticated in the world. The reason for that is we see a lot of great shows at a relatively cheap price. Filipinos can discern what’s good. That goes to show, as [far as] advertising is concerned, that all the general entertainment channels will really compete for the ad sales money. And we compete in terms of coming up with the best shows possible. That benefits the Filipino consumer. We show only the best.”

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Asian expansion

Asia is the ideal place to start the venture, Engwall added, because of related reasons. “Both the shareholders have been looking at expansion around the world and Asia is a very important piece of that puzzle because of the fantastic growth opportunities here. We individually looked at Asia and said, ‘Why don’t we do this together? It’s going to be a much stronger proposition to the end consumers,’” he explained.

Aside from the Philippines, RTL CBS Entertainment, is currently available in Singapore (where it is based), Malaysia and Thailand. RTL CBS Extreme is available in the same countries, except for Thailand. Engwall described the latter channel as more geared toward the male viewer.

“Extreme is a cool general entertainment channel more skewed toward the male audience—everything is fast-paced, high-octane,” Engwall said. “We have some reality, magic, action and extreme sports shows. But girls will like it a lot, too.”

Shows airing on RTL CBS Extreme include reality programs “Fear Factor” and “Red Bull  Art of Motion,” and the action-drama series “Hawaii Five-0.”

How about a show that will be produced and shown first in Asia? While it’s a possibility, Engwall said there were no immediate plans to create one. “For now, we’re going to focus on a long lineup of great stuff … In the future, we will look at different things,” he said.

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TAGS: “Fear Factor”, “Red Bull Art of Motion”, “RTL CBS”, American Idol, FremantleMedia, House of Cards, Kevin Spacey, Power Plant Mall, Rene Esguerra, Robin Wright, X-Factor
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