The Asia Media Journal
April 17, 2014

September 11, 2008

When Owners Meet Managers

There was something in the air at the MPA Asia Media Summit on Sept. 8.

It was a great study of contrasts. The message from owners of local media businesses was about meeting risk head-on, as long as there’s money to be made from the consumptive power of media. Executives at multi-national media majors, meanwhile, tended to prefer talk of managing expectations, navigating risk and focusing on execution – Asian echoes of the corporate party-line.

True, subtle nuances can be picked up when a regional media power player like a Star or Turner lets you in for a moment or two under the corporate hood. Both companies were realistic about the scope of their ambition and media sector growth. But by being realistic, they sounded like corporate managers committed to caution, safety and, to borrow a handy cricketing phase, not-outs – foregoing daring shots in favor of a run here and there, keeping you in the game but unlikely to result in a spectacular score.

Star already has a big business in India of course, one that MPA analysts reckon contributes 75% to Star's APAC consolidated sales. The big question is what else is there -- a reasonable but saturating business in Taiwan and SE Asia but not much more to write home about.

Apart from a movie co. JV with Fox, CEO Paul Aiello said little on Sept. 8 to suggest that Star could capture much in value or innovation outside India. Instead, he talked about "the cost of capital", "profits taking time", "execution being that much harder", "managing expectations", "inflated expectations," and an Indonesian business (20% of ANTV), improved somewhat from a nadir it reached two years ago, but still a long way short of transformational.

Then there were the local players. Abdul Rahman of major Malaysian player Media Prima candidly sized up the risks of his company’s ventures into markets such as the Philippines, a growth opportunity that few others have dared grasp.

Hary Tanoe of Indonesia’s leading media company Media Nusantara Citra, pushing ahead with a rapid expansion of a local TV network at a pace that puts international majors in the shade, has also confronted risk-taking in China with exposure to a tricky satellite broadcasting business through an investment in Linktone. It’s a bold move that would stand little chance of getting the go-ahead if it were presented to a board in Europe or North America. “It's a growing market,” Hary said, “and we want the growth.”

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