Nickelodeon just added another notch to its expanding Asian belt. On the heels of announcing its debut in Malaysia with the DTH operator ASTRO, Bruce Tuchman, GM of Global Network Ventures, was in Hong Kong to announce that Nick will be available in New Zealand on Sky Television’s digital platform as of February 1, 2000.
Despite the depressed economic climate, Tuchman says he is now ahead of the initial goal set for the region. One of the few big markets left for Nick is China. ‘People were unnecessarily skittish,’ says Tuchman, referring to cautious investors after the Asian market collapse. ‘The one thing I found intriguing [during the down cycle] was that cable subscriber numbers were going up. Despite the fact that we were late in the game in the Philippines, in less than one year, we’re in 90% of the homes.’
Tuchman attributes Nick’s success to packaging and the fact that its programming is dubbed in kids’ voices. ‘We broke barriers in Japan. Before us, Japan did not use kids’ voices in their programming.’
China is on Nick’s agenda, but Tuchman says he’s not rushing: ‘It’s not about throwing a lot of channels up against the wall and seeing where they land. It’s about being careful and deliberate.’
Whereas Nickelodeon is aggressively pushing into South East Asia, Jeff Johnson, VP of Hallmark Entertainment Network, which owns 50% of Kermit Channel, is taking a different tack. The company is focusing on only three markets (India, Malaysia and the Philippines) in the region. The goal is to spend its energy on merchandising and branding in the existing markets before taking it beyond. Kermit has launched a school contact program in 250 schools in India, and is looking for consumer product tie-ins. ‘Our goal is to get distribution in place-to build an infrastructure,’ says Johnson.
Nick also recently launched a localized version in Poland as part of the cable channel Fantastic, and debuts a customized channel in Hungary this month, distributed across that country’s UPC cable system. Both the Polish block and Hungarian channel run from 7 a.m to 7 p.m. daily.