2005: The Year of Asian American Media
By Thomas Tseng, Principal and Co-Founder, New American Dimensions
Is there a new ethnic media revolution afoot? Last year saw the emergence of a new kind of ethnic television media: one geared toward U.S. born Latinos — exemplified by the rise of cable TV networks SiTV, mun2, and VOY. These new kids on the block were distinct from the Spanish-language media juggernauts Univision and Telemundo, and recognized an increasingly vital fact about the growing U.S. Hispanic market, particularly younger consumers: they prefer English and homespun pop culture to imported telenovelas from Latin America, unlike their immigrant parents.
This year, similar developments are occurring in the Asian American marketplace. Astonishingly, six new 24-hour television channels have started or are scheduled to launch later this year, offering everything from Asian-themed cinema, pop music, animation, and reality-TV programming with a 2nd generation twist. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, these changes are a result of evolving demographic changes:
“Looking around now, I sometimes say to myself, ‘My God…what did we start?’,” says Mike Sherman, general manager of KTSF.
It was Sherman who got the ball rolling on the program that would become Stir, commissioning a series of focus groups to explore the tastes and viewership interests of the Asian American youth market. “We’ve been in the Asian media market for 28 years, and we’ve always tried to follow demographic trends,” he says. “The people we began serving back in 1976, they have children now, and those children speak English. We couldn’t ignore this burgeoning second generation.”
What those focus groups identified was a theme that runs through the business plans of all of these newly launched channels: The primary thing that young Asian Americans were hungry to see on TV was…themselves.
Such audience changes slated toward a more youthful, Asian American second generation are affecting the way traditional Asian-language TV networks in the U.S. are doing their business. The International Channel, for instance, purveyors of block programming in Mandarin-, Vietnamese-, and Korean-languages are getting a major makeover to appeal to 2nd-gen audiences courtesy of Comcast, who acquired the station last December. They’re now being re-branded with the much hipper moniker “AZN Television,” offering everything from news magazine shows, English-dubbed movies, and anime. This is exactly the same terrain covered by ImaginAsian TV, another 24-hour station targeted specifically to English-fluent Asian Americans.
Comcast isn’t the only major media group throwing its hat into the Asian American ring. MTV will also be initiating — not one, but three — new media offshoots aimed with this market in mind, including MTV Desi (aimed at Asian Indian Americans) to be introduced later this year.
With the new wave of media upstarts, marketers who covet the affluence of Asian American consumers will now have an array of choices to channel their communications that previously did not exist. While it’s far too soon to determine if the market has an appetite large enough to sustain all these new networks, there’s no doubt that Asian American consumers are now an indelible fixture in the U.S. media mix.
Moderator’s Comment: Does the increase in second generation Asians and other non-English speaking populations suggest that non-English language marketing
will no longer make sense in the not-too-distant future? –
Thomas Tseng – Moderator