Asia Media News: Phnom Penh Post denies closure rumours, Mediacorp, SPH and more

The latest media news from the Asian market.

Mediaweek’s Peter Olszewski rounds up the latest media news from the Asian market: Friday March 23, 2018.

No truth to reports Phnom Penh Post may close, says CEO

News reports have circulated widely this week that the Australian-owned Phnom Penh Post is facing closure due to a large unpaid tax bill, and an unpaid bank loan.

The story was originally broken on Monday by Phnom Penh-based AEC News, which said hackers had obtained tax documents.

Phnom Penh Post CEO Marcus Holmes has issued a statement saying, “The Post is not at risk of closure, as some inaccurate media reports have suggested.”

Marcus Holmes

He added that the Post is undergoing a routine tax audit noting, “The exact figures involved are confidential, as are the commercial discussions, which are ongoing.”

He also said the Post has a loan with a prominent commercial bank which is renegotiated annually and, during the most recent renegotiation, terms were agreed for another year.”

Holmes also told the Southeast Asia Globe, “It’s not political. It’s got nothing to do with us being the last independent newspaper in Cambodia. This is just a tax audit.”

Singapore’s Gold Coast Commonwealth Games deal

Mediacorp will serve up over 550 hours of sporting action from the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games next month for Singaporean audiences.

The action will be covered on Mediacorp’s multiple platforms including digital, television, radio and social for free.

Chinese-born Singaporean table tennis player Zhou Yihan [L]

The Games will be broadcast on oktoSports, the sports belt on okto, and Toggle, Mediacorp’s s digital entertainment service.

Toggle will provide the widest coverage of the Games with seven live channels dedicated to games action with a focus on Team Singapore’s participation. The sporting action and curated daily highlights are available for catch-up. The Games will be carried on free-to-air okto’s sportsbelt, oktoSports from April 4 to April 15, with games action and daily highlights on weekday evenings and weekend afternoons and evenings. Daily updates and the latest medal tally results will be carried on Mediacorp’s news bulletins on all language platforms.

Radio listeners will get the latest news updates on the Games including medal tallies on five radio stations.

Vietnam government sells off stake in TV company

The Vietnam government is divesting its 47.8% stake in one of the country’s largest pay-TV companies, Viet Nam Television Cable Corporation (VTVcab), a unit of state-owned broadcaster Vietnam Television, in its initial IPO on April 17.

VTVcab will float nearly 42.3 million shares in the IPO on the Hanoi Stock Exchange. The IPO timing follows the Prime Minister’s directive to hold an IPO by June 30, 2018. VTVcab, launched in 2012, broadcasts 200 channels in cooperation with other TV service providers, and operates digitally.

More staff “rightsized” in SPH Magazines restructure

SPH Magazines will undergo a major restructure, with staffing reduced (or “rightsized” according the press release) from 379 to about 300, mostly through staff attrition and redeployment. But staff will be retrenched this month.

The custom publishing team, Custom Content Solutions, and its contract titles will be transferred to Focus Publishing, the contract publishing subsidiary of SPH’s Chinese Media Group. The editorial division, led by group editor-in-chief Caroline Ngui, will launch shared digital desks to speed up the company’s digital-first strategy, and the title teams will continue to handle both print and digital editorial.

SPH Magazines CEO chief executive officer Loh Yew Seng added that no SPH Magazines titles will be closed in the exercise, although the performance of titles will continue to be monitored. After many years of profitability, SPH Magazines made a loss last year.

Spotify launches in Vietnam

Music streamer Spotify launched on March 13 in Vietnam, the same day as launches in Israel, Romania, and South Africa and Vietnam. Spotify’s managing director for Asia, Sunita Kaur, officially launched the service in Ho Chi Minh City, with a little help from local female rapper Suboi, the “queen of hip hop” who performed a few lines for US president Barack Obama when he visited Ho Chi Minh City in 2016.

In Vietnam, Spotify will have to compete with Viet favorites like Nhaccuatui and Zing, and Spotify’s direct competitor, Apple Music, has been in Vietnam since 2015 at a low price.

Netflix to make more Thai programming

Netflix is in discussions to make original programming in Thailand, according to the Bangkok Post.

Greg Peters, chief of product for Netflix, told the Post, “We will select countries that have strong entertainment infrastructure and great storylines to produce Netflix originals. Thailand is one country that is in discussions.”

Netflix co-founder and chief executive Reed Hastings said Thailand has been a huge market for Netflix, adding that the company announced on February 28 that it had partnered with Advanced Info Service, Thailand’s largest GSM mobile phone operator. “That turned out to be very successful for both of us,” he said, “By integrating with mobile operator partners we help them gain more members and the strategy helps us grow as well.”

Netflix stats show that in 2017 Thais ranked among the top downloaders in the world. Thailand also ranked in the top five globally for binge-watching Stranger Things 2 just 24 hours after it was released, and had the highest percentage of members watching a season of the TV show My Only Love Song within 24 hours of its global release

Outdoor Channel lures viewers with fishing program block

Outdoor Channel Asia has launched its first dedicated feed with a primetime weekday nights fishing program block angled around Get Hooked, to better serve audiences and give advertisers more targeted options.

Some of Outdoor Channel’s leading original productions such as Major League Fishing and Trev Gowdy’s Monster Fish have scored high viewership and the company is now angling to capitalise further on this.

New original exclusive productions set to air on the Malaysian dedicated feed include: Hookin’ Up with Mariko Izumi, Ultimate Catch, Fins & Skins Classic Adventures alongside returning fishing favorites The Obsession of Carter Andrews, Modern Fishing with Jared Jefferies and Zona’s Awesome Fishing Show.

Celestial Tiger renews movie studio deal

Celestial Tiger Entertainment has renewed its exclusive multiyear output deals with Hong Kong movie studio, Mega-Vision Project Workshop Ltd. The deal secures first and exclusive pay-TV rights, as well as pay-per-view, video-on-demand, and over-the-top rights to its upcoming slate of movies for CTE’s channels, Celestial Movies and cHK, in Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines.

Singapore media outfit in deal with Luxify

Singapore-based Heart Media, a luxury lifestyle media and event group, has signed a partnership and investment deal with Hong Kong’s Luxify, which bills itself as the world’s largest online luxury marketplace. Luxify, launched in 2013 and dubbed by the South China Morning Post as “an eBay for the super-rich”, raised US$800,000 of venture funding in 2015. The platform has one of the internet’s largest collections of luxury products, with an inventory worth more than US$160 billion. Heart Media Group CEO Olivier Burlot said, “We look forward to exploring all possible synergies between Luxify and our group. Through our premier events, online presence and database of affluent consumers, we are fully confident that we will further strengthen Luxify’s first mover advantage as the leading global luxury marketplace.”

Some Heart Media titles

Taiwan site TNL buys local sports platform

Independent Taipei-based Chinese-language news site The News Lens (TNL) has acquired Sports Vision, one of Taiwan’s premier sports news platforms.

The acquisition makes TNL a top tier Asian digital sports news provider, and the company will integrate Sports Vision’s editorial teams and back-end operations, but will keep the brands and websites separate. Sports Vision is TNL’s second acquisition – in December the company acquired Inside, one of Taiwan’s top tech-focused Chinese language news websites, along with the Chinese language site’s lifestyle sub-brand ELD.

More Asian media outlets resort to paywalls

A growing number of Asian media outfits have resorted to paywalls to pump up revenue. Recently the Bangkok Post and the Straits Times went the partial paywall route, introducing premium paid-for editorial. But last week regional website publisher Coconuts went all the way, announcing in an impassioned editorial that its entire editorial would go behind a paywall beginning virtually immediately with the launch of its $US5 per month membership and subscription program, COCO+. Non-payers are restricted to 15 free articles a month. Coconuts said it had achieved an audience 4.2 million monthly unique visitors at its height, and “an average of 2 million unique visitors per month over the past three years.” The company added. “And frankly, right now, it’s all fucked up” due, it said, to drastic online media ecosystem changes.

A+E Networks launches first international digital studio

New York-headquartered A+E Networks has launched its first digital studio outside the US in Singapore, the first of several international studios to be rolled out in Asia. The international studios will specialise in producing original short and mid-form digital content themed around network channels including History, Lifetime, FYI and Crime+Investigation. Collectively, the network’s flagship channels History, Lifetime and FYI have garnered 218 million video views and three million watched hours on its Asian digital platforms.

Mediaweek Asia: In Brief

• Southeast Asia’s video streamer iflix has appointed Diana Boo as country manager for iflix Malaysia and Brunei. Before iflix, Boo headed publisher solutions for CtrlShift’s Southeast Asian operation for over nine years. Prior to CtrlShft, Boo held senior BBDO/ Proximity and Saatchi & Saatchi before going digital.

iflix Malaysia country manager Diana Boo

• While in Sydney, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that Chun Chanboth, the deputy-director of Radio Free Asia’s US-based Khmer service who has been critical of Hun Sen, was in fact the PM’s spy. Hun Sen added that Chanboth had asked for protection from Lieutenant General Hun Manet, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and the PM’s eldest son, because he feared that US agents would kill him.

• The South China Morning Post has launched a tech news site called Abacus. Executive producer Ravi Hiranand says, “At Abacus, we’ll cover Chinese tech for the rest of the world.”

• Singapore-based martial arts media company One Championship has appointed billionaire entrepreneur Saurabh Mittal as vice chairman. In May last year Forbes wrote of Mittal’s involvement with One Championship, describing Mittal as a “global Investor with Warren Buffet likenesses.” Mittal founded Mission Holdings, which in July last year invested in One Championship.

• Malaysia’s MEASAT Satellite Systems will distribute six more TV channels to pay-TV operators in Asia following a multiyear program deal with SPI International. The SPI channels are FightBox HD, DocuBox HD, Fast&FunBox HD, FilmBox Art House Gametoon HD and FunBox UHD.

• Myanmar jobs platform JobNet has raised a seven-digit US dollar funding round led by an unnamed existing investor, a London-based emerging markets-focused fund. Bermuda-based Vostok New Ventures also joined the round. In 2017 JobNet claimed to have attracted over 400,000 visitors with more than 45,000 job applications a month.

• Since iflix Malaysia signed a joint venture with Football Malaysia in January, the average viewership on the all-new “Football Malaysia on iflix” channel has remained 470% higher than the average attendance at stadiums. iflix will now expand the program to include short-form material focused on goals, saves, players and skills, as well as human interest stories.

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