Guest Commentary: Auspicious Year for Asian Programming

Feb 3, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Thursday marks the start of the Lunar New Year, the single most important holiday for Asian communities around the world. Many Asian groups across America, including Chinese and Vietnamese communities, will celebrate this significant event with family and friends hoping for a year of prosperity.
For U.S. broadcasters offering Asian programming, 2008 should prove to be a promising year as well. The number 8 represents prosperity and good fortune in Chinese culture, so it’s especially appropriate that 8/8/08 is the kickoff to the highly anticipated Summer Olympics in Beijing.
As we usher in the Lunar Year of the Rat, Asian-focused broadcasters including KTSF-TV will continue to offer content targeting the dynamic, multifaceted Asian American population, which has shown remarkable growth over the past three decades.
An increasingly multicultural U.S. population has created strong demand for diverse and authentic television content.
Here are five important things to note about Asian-focused programming:

Asian American viewers are on the rise.
Asian Americans are a fast-growing consumer segment. Between 2000 and 2005, the Asian American population grew 19.8%, a rate nearly as high as the 20.9% increase in the U.S. Hispanic population. According to Nielsen research, Hispanic, Asian American and African American TV households all show growth rates that exceed the national average. In particular, Asian Americans are an attractive consumer group with buying power estimated at $450 billion. With higher educational and household income levels, this affluent segment consistently indexes over the total U.S. population and is gaining significant market share and credibility in the eyes of advertisers.
There are key Asian markets across America. Asian American consumers are concentrated in just a few key markets. This concentration makes the Asian American population easy to identify, target and reach. In fact, nearly 50% of the 14 million Asian Americans in the U.S. are located in the New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu and Chicago DMAs. Secondary markets such as Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, D.C., are witnessing rapid Asian American population growth as well.
In the larger markets, some stations are devoting a high percentage of their program schedule to Asian-related programming. In the secondary markets, some full-power and low-power stations target the largest Asian groups in their market for a portion of their broadcast day.
Mainstream vs. ethnic: Does it really matter? How do we define mainstream consumers when nearly 21% of the San Francisco DMA is now Asian? When San Francisco-based KTSF became the first broadcaster in the country to air Asian-language programming in 1976, it truly was a niche market. For many years, KTSF was labeled an “ethnic” broadcaster with minimal impact.
KTSF now is the only Asian-focused media outlet in the U.S. that offers Nielsen viewership data to successfully track the viewing habits of the Asian community. KTSF continues to outperform some mass-market and Hispanic stations with its weekday prime-time dramas and news programs, seeing a 14.8% increase in household viewership ratings from 2006 to 2007.
Advertisers are paying attention. The industry is paying serious attention to the Asian American market, which had been long ignored by television executives and advertisers. Supported by audience tracking numbers and market research, the Asian media landscape is becoming increasingly credible and relevant in the eyes of major advertisers. Major advertisers have recognized the value of the market and made a commitment to reach it.
There are many success stories for companies that have made a clear and focused effort in this market. From financial institutions to restaurant chains, a commitment to in-language media and community events has led to a corresponding increase in Asian customers. One interesting observation is that new immigrants have intense brand loyalty to companies that specifically market to them, whether in-language or in-culture.
Asian consumer values. The Asian American market is not as mysterious or complicated as some marketers have been led to believe. There are variations of language and culture, and it is helpful to work with partners that understand these differences. However, most marketers have discovered that Asian American consumers value many of the things other consumers desire, including value, quality products, convenience, a variety of choices, respect and good service.
Targeting Asian American consumers, whether language-dominant, bilingual or English-dominant, requires reaching them in- language or in a culturally appropriate manner. Even if Asian immigrants are bilingual, they remain fiercely loyal to TV stations offering culturally relevant programs that speak to them as consumers.
As the Asian American population continues to grow in key DMAs, additional broadcasters will devote more programming in a variety of Asian languages. There has been a dramatic increase in the quality of programming now coming from Asia, including China. Some of the major producers in China are beginning to offer HD content.
We are also seeing more stations in the U.S. produce their own programming, primarily local in-language news.
In the promising year of 2008, Asian-focused broadcasting is finally getting the attention it deserves.
Mike Sherman is general manager of Lincoln Broadcasting-owned KTSF-TV in San Francisco, the U.S.’ largest Asian-language broadcaster.


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