East Meets Local

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Asian TV viewers want to be recognized. Representing a collective buying power of over $363 billion, their median income is 35% higher than the national norm.

Still, only $100 million was spent last year on advertising to the 13.5 million Asian-Americans in the U.S., according to Asian-American Advertising Federation estimates. In contrast, media-buying firm Magna Global estimates that approximately $4 billion was spent on Spanish-language media.

Asian TV is difficult to generalize. There are dozens of different languages, and 70-plus Asian-targeted networks position themselves as tiny premium services.

Just who is watching those networks will become more apparent as Nielsen rolls out its local people meters. LPMs now provide ratings for Asian-Americans in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

In January, KTSF San Francisco, a nearly 30-year-old station operated by privately owned Lincoln Broadcasting Co., became the first Asian station to subscribe to the service. Says General Manager Michael Sherman, “The Nielsen numbers give us even more credibility with advertisers.”

Getting reliable numbers has been a stumbling point. “One of our biggest problems is that too many cable channels and leased-time brokers are constantly exaggerating their numbers,” Sherman says. “When we first started with Asian programming, people just shook their heads. Now Asian broadcasting is finally getting the attention it deserves.”

The station’s Chinese dramas currently attract 50,000-100,000 viewers in prime time.

Asian TV is getting new respect from advertisers, too. In San Francisco, where about 20% of the population is Asian, major advertisers at KTSF include Wells Fargo and other banks, as well as GM, Ford and other major car companies, according to Sherman.

The station currently produces two hours of daily local programming, including newscasts produced with The San Jose Mercury News and spoken in Cantonese and Mandarin. It also acquires programming targeted to Indian, Filipino, Japanese and Vietnamese viewers.

Peter Mathes, a former Chris-Craft broadcasting chief, last year became the chairman of AsianMedia Group, owner of KSCI Los Angeles and KIKU Honolulu, which serve the Asian community. Those two stations, Mathes says, may reach about one quarter of the nation’s Asian population.

KSCI and KTSF cooperate on program ventures and are funding a research project to harvest data that should be important in building up ad sales. As Mathes says, the Asian market has “a lot of upside.”

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The UN of Television Listings

In the world's melting pot, some stations have served ethnic audiences since the early days of radio. Today, with satellite and cable, viewers and listeners can receive programming from around the world, as indicated by this sampling.