Tapping Foreign Markets in U.S. with More than Spanish

Tapping Foreign Markets in U.S. with More than Spanish

Industry Report

ONCE, immigrants had few, if any, options if they wanted to watch television shows in their native tongues. That’s hardly the case now.

Several media companies, including Univision Communications Inc., Russian Media Group LLC and Asia Star Broadcasting Inc., are tapping into the country’s millions of non-English speakers by broadcasting shows made here and overseas in Spanish, Russian, Hindi and other languages.

Spanish-language stations in particular are doing “extremely well,” says Anne Elliot, spokeswoman for Nielsen Media Research, the New York City-based media information arm of Netherlands’ The Nielsen Co. Univision, which has a station in Teaneck, and Telemundo, which has a station in Teterboro, are getting “audience sizes similar to lower-rated English language programming,” she says.

Russian Media Group of Fort Lee reports it has 300,000 viewers. The company broadcasts 12 different channels that offer news, sports and entertainment geared toward Russian immigrants. On its flagship channel RTN, original programming such as shows that give English lessons and explain U.S. politics make up about four or five hours per day. The rest is filled with foreign-produced programming like Russian talk shows.

For the most part, only RTN and one or two other channels make it into packages offered by cable television providers like Comcast and Cablevision, says Gary Flom, director of marketing at Russian Media Group. If a customer wants all 12, the company will install its own satellite dish. The full package costs $39.98 per month.

On satellite television provider Dish Network, about 140,000 people nationwide subscribe to TV Asia, says Pradeep Hedge, the station’s marketing manager. TV Asia, which is owned by Asia Star Broadcasting of Edison, is aimed at immigrants who speak Hindi, English and Gujarati from the southern Asian countries of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. New Jersey is “neck and neck” with California for states with the highest concentrations of Asians, says Hedges.

The station’s original programming, which comprises between 20 and 30 percent of its lineup, is made up of shows that report on South Asian immigration issues and play music videos by request, Hedges says. It also broadcasts overseas programs such as soap operas.

Although the soaps and serials are popular with the older generation, TV Asia doesn’t have much faith in them to drive future growth. There aren’t enough new immigrants to warrant significant investment in foreign programming, he says. The number of South Asian emigres is “phenomenally dropping” because India’s economic growth is providing more and better jobs for natives than ever, says Hedge. The boom has also sparked a “reverse brain drain” that is drawing expatriated Indians back to their homeland, he says.

Not to mention the coveted younger generation is “losing interest in the soaps and serials that their parents and grandparents watch,” says Hedge. TV Asia wants to increase its original programming and gear it more toward immigrants’ children and grandchildren, he says.

E-mail to tgaudio@njbiz.com

Copyright Journal Publications Inc. Dec 17, 2007

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