Local knowledge and a well-planned entry strategy are key to breaking into new territories. Ann-Marie Corvin travels to Turkey to hear from key international players

There are plenty of opportunities for TV channels with strong brands to break into new territories – with developing markets a key focus – but a well thought-out entry strategy is essential.

This was the main conclusion of a conference session organised by broadcast services provider Chello DMC as part of its TV Without Boundaries initiative, a year-long focus on international TV channel strategies.

Speaking at the conference session in Istanbul, Turkey, earlier this month, an expert panel agreed that a detailed knowledge of the culture, local editorial partners and localisation services were all vital to ensure that international channel brands worked well in local territories.

According to Bloomberg Television executive producer Josh Bassett, the main motivation for expanding into new territories is the desire to reach new audiences.

“The truth is that Bloomberg can be viewed in 310 million homes – there’s not a long way to go in terms of increasing our distribution footprint in the developed market,” he admits. “But there’s definitely room for more eyeballs – particularly for a niche channel like ours – in developing economies.”

Over the past two years, Bloomberg has set up local TV channels in Turkey, India and, most recently, Mongolia. Explaining the company’s strategy, Bassett says: “Each channel launch was done with the involvement of a local partner. We provide our network, our experience and our brand, and they provide the local knowledge, their experience and people.”

In Turkey, Bloomberg joined forces with Ciner Media to form its Turkish affiliate, Bloomberg HT. The Indian channel, meanwhile, was launched as a strategic partnership with UTV. “Our main strategy for TV is to find and develop these partnerships. Not necessarily for a TV channel – sometimes it could be for a certain amount of content,” Bassett says.

Cutting red tape

While broadcasters do relinquish some control over their brand by going down the partnership route, for Bloomberg it has proven an efficient and cost-effective way of launching quickly into new territories without having to negotiate reams of red tape.

Bassett compares the straightforward launch of Bloomberg HT with Al Jazeera’s planned launch of a Turkish TV channel following its acquisition of Turkish TV channel Cine 5. “The intention was for Al Jazeera to launch in the first quarter of 2011 but, as yet, no channel has made it to air,” he says.

To maintain a degree of brand guardianship, Bassett outlines that Bloomberg’s policy has been to base an executive producer and other key staff members in each territory where they have partnered on a channel operation.

For the past two years, Bassett has overseen the Turkish operation and is currently brushing up on his Arabic to head the launch of Bahrain-based Bloomberg channel Alarab, a joint venture with Prince Alwaleed, to be launched in late 2013.

“I’ll be based in Bahrain with four other Bloomberg staff. In any of these situations, you need to look at the financial situation, examine the market carefully to be sure it fits into your strategy, and take a good look at whether the partner is right for your brand,” he advises.

Local relevance

According to fellow panellist and future-planning consultant Ufuk Tarhan, in territories such as Turkey, where the median age of viewers is 29.7 (compared with the UK’s 40), new channels coming into the market would do well to exploit the opportunities presented by this demographic.

“Turkey is a very young, active society and our economy is growing,” she says. “Channel brands should be thinking about doing something different. They should create new, interesting areas – education and thematic channels or experiment with social TV – to cater for this demographic, rather than replicating what already exists.”

In an era when broadcasters can reach a global audience through a multitude of devices, the real challenge for content owners is keeping their product relevant to local audiences, according to Jelmer Kleingeld, vice-president, commercial operations, at Chello DMC.

He told the panel that to achieve this, there is no “one size fits all”. “We have lots of US clients but you can’t just cut and paste their content into Europe. Not only are the specs different, there are different technical standards and different approaches – some territories prefer subtitles, while others prefer dubbing.”

A degree of standardisation is achievable, and is a specialism of Chello’s, with clients such as Nat Geo now able to pump 15 languages through its feeds. But this is not the right approach for everyone, as Kleingeld acknowledges.

“If you want to have your channel made relevant to a specific audience in a specific country, you definitely need to pay a lot of attention to whatthe language is, what the cultureis about and what the implementation of the technology is about. It’s more a case of using a technology to work for your client than having a standard app that works across all platforms.”

Increasingly, local audiences also want to see home-grown content broadcast on international channels – with Kleingeld adding that the broadcast service provider has received a growing number of requests from clients for local programme insertion. “You can increase relevance by localising content in a better way,” he says. “We are able to plug in their local content in the same way that we plug in their local ad insertions to enable them to localise their feeds and attract more viewers on a local scale.”

Indeed, one of Bloomberg HT’s most successful shows is the domestically produced word game format Kelime Oyunu, which is broadcast in the evenings at a time when rival international channel brands such as CNBC tend to air US entertainment shows.

“Expensive international imports are not always successful in the local markets and here is a locally made programme that triples our ratings when it is broadcast,” says Bassett. “When I tell people in Turkey I work for Bloomberg, it’s the first programme they mention.”

24kitchen adding a local flavour

Last year, Chello DMC became the technical partner for Fox International’s new food lifestyle channel 24Kitchen.

The management of the thematic channel, which is designed to promote healthy eating using fresh local and seasonal products, realised that tailoring its content for different European markets would set it apart from its rivals.

Chello DMC facilitated the channel’s global programming, taking multiple language feeds and adjusting the format to HD or SD where necessary. It also tailored these feeds to leave room for locally produced versions of Fox’s programmes, such as Spanish Kitchen and German Kitchen. “Our work is to localise the global feeds but also, increasingly, to allow for the possibility of local programme insertion,” explains Chello DMC operational head Jelmer Kleingeld.

Bloomberg Mongolian Partnership

Earlier this month, Bloomberg Television partnered with The Trade & Development Bank of Mongolia to launch the first international broadcast news organisation in the country, one of the fastest growing stock markets and investment environments in Asia today.

The production team, which includes more than 30 local journalists trained by Bloomberg, is creating five hours of local content each week, reflecting the business world in Mongolia and the Asia- Pacific region.

The rest of the channel output, which can be seen on cable as well as the national digital terrestrial platform, is derived from Bloomberg’s international content. This includes the pan-Asia Bloomberg feed, as well as content from London, with BTV Mongolia adding its own graphics and tickers as well as real-time translation from other languages.

The channel launched on 8 October with its flagship evening newscast Money Flow, followed by a prime-time interview programme, Talk To Bloomberg TV Mongolia.

  • Chello DMC’s TV Without Boundaries event took place in Istanbul, Turkey, on 9 October