A Second Chance: Asian-American TV

Jun 1, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Former UPN Chief Operating Officer Adam Ware thinks he can grow a business in television for Asian Americans, a market cable giant Comcast pulled out of last year.
Mr. Ware has been named president of IA Media, overseeing programming, promotion, distribution and ad sales for ImaginAsian TV, a network devoted to Asian pop culture. IA Media is part of ImaginAsian Entertainment, a privately held company based in New York.
Mr. Ware’s priorities are to increase spending on both original and acquired programming, ramp up distribution and increase ad revenue. The network will be rebranded in the near future.
Mr. Ware said the network’s English-language programming is Asian pop culture, as exemplified by movies like “Transformers” and brands like Hello Kitty. The core audience is Asian Americans and others interested in what’s on the cutting edge of technology and trends.
Programming on the network will start to change in July, with major remodeling happening in the fourth quarter. Much of the new programming on the network will be original.
More episodes of “Uncle Morty’s Dub Shack,” about “Harold and Kumar”-like characters working in a video joint, are going to be produced.
The network also has a show based on its Web site “IA Link.” The site lets people know what’s cool and hip in the Asian space, but Mr. Ware wants it to be more interactive and viral. “We’re going to take that and make it into a Monday-through-Friday lifestyle show aimed at people in their 20s and 30s,” he said.
Also on the programming slate is a standup show, “Comedy Zen,” a mixed martial arts show called “Pancrase” and “Short Cuts,” a collection of short films.
Mr. Ware wants a tech show because, he said, Asian Americans are the group most likely to shop at a Best Buy or Circuit City and least likely to consider price an issue. He also wants to develop a show based on the Web site Ibeatyou.com and an automotive program.
A separately branded, late-night block of edgier programming for young adult viewers also is planned.
ImaginAsian has made deals with two Asian program suppliers, Japan’s Fuji TV and M Net, the MTV of Korea. Mr. Ware will be digging through their libraries for shows and formats that haven’t been exploited in the U.S. (Two weeks ago the network started running a two-hour weekend block of Fuji shows.)
After Mr. Ware left UPN, Liberty Media asked him to consult on its International Channel, which was running blocks of programming in different foreign languages.
That didn’t seem to be the best business plan, so he proposed turning it into a channel focusing on Asian pop culture. As the plan was being implemented, International Channel was sold to Comcast, which relaunched it as AZN. AZN folded earlier this year.
“Among a group of channel assets, AZN was on the bottom of their very long list of things they had to work on,” Mr. Ware said. “Ultimately they became less interested in AZN and shut it down.”
Comcast declined to comment on AZN’s closure and how that might affect ImaginAsian.
While Asian pop shows are all over the dial (for examples, check out some of the shows on Adult Swim), Mr. Ware believed there was room for only one Asian channel to succeed, so Comcast’s decision created an opportunity for ImaginAsian.
The network was launched by Augustine SC Hong, a successful Korean-American banker, and his brother, a former TV researcher at Nielsen, Paramount and Telerep.
“This is backed by serious people with serious money, and I think they intend to be the standard-bearer for this segment,” said former AOL President Jon Miller, now a media investor with Velocity Interactive Group.
Mr. Ware worked for Mr. Miller when both were at USA Networks.
Mr. Ware said he believes he can increase ImaginAsian’s distribution from its current 5 million subs, much of it in markets with large Asian populations including Los Angeles, to 10 million. AZN was down to 13.5 million homes when it folded.
ImaginAsian already has affiliation agreements with the largest cable operators, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox and Charter. One of those operators is about to add the network in another 2 million to 3 million homes on the West Coast.
The network is in talks with one of the major satellite companies and Verizon’s FiOS.Mr. Ware will seek cable distribution by offering the network to TV stations as programming for their digital channels, a strategy already employed by LATV and MTV Tres.
ImaginAsian also may syndicate its best programming to stations to beef up distribution in some markets.
Mr. Ware is not a fan of the network’s moniker, however. “I don’t think it’s the best name graphically on TV,” he said. “Any time you have to tell people how to spell something, it’s tough.”
He sees the network evolving into IA, and wants to find a way to use the term “A Pop,” for Asian pop, more prominently.

One Comment

  1. Wow, why didn’t we think of that 🙂

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