2005: The Year of Asian American Media

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Apr 08, 2005
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By Thomas Tseng, Principal and Co-Founder, New American Dimensions

www.newamericandimensions.com

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

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4 Comments on "2005: The Year of Asian American Media"


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Charlie Moro
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Charlie Moro
15 years 10 months ago

The advent of sub-groups within what were once considered sub-groups within American culture is a normal progression. Think about the transition of the original MTV to four and five music video programs each geared to its own genre. The assimilation of existing ethnic groups is good from the perspective of “being able to communicate in English,” however, all of these ethnic groups will need to be addressed in some way with a reflection of their core values. And the continuing influx of ethnic groups (non-English speaking) into the US will continue to drive native language communication.

Rupa Ranganathan
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Rupa Ranganathan
15 years 10 months ago
Yes, my good friend Thomas is right. Asian American media is going to rock and roll this year. And we are all going to be the better for it. Speaking of the 2 million plus Asian Indian Desis, it would be too simplistic to even think that English language media could ever overtake the vibrance of India’s linguistic plurality, so central to her cultural ethos. It will never be an “either/or” situation, more of a “this and that” woven seamlessly together. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with that defining word used by Asian Indians for self identification, the word “Desi” simply means “from the country.” But it overflows in emotional bonding. To catch a glimpse of what this stands for, log on to Netflix.com and order Swades (meaning my country), a blockbuster Bollywood release starring superstar Sharukh Khan. Even as in the case of the Hispanic market, as the English-dominant cross-section of the target market segment continues to grow, there needs to be a new suite of products, services and indeed… Read more »
Virgilio Perez Pascoe
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Virgilio Perez Pascoe
15 years 10 months ago

While English will continue to be the dominant language for marketing communications (and a mark of “elitism” for some ethnic groups), “connecting” in some local languages will also be important to look for additional loyalty to a brand or service. But this will not occur with all ethnic groups….there are too many local languages in India, China and in general, the South China Sea basin, to make it practical to reach all groups. However, purchasing and usage customs and habits of significant and important ethnic market targets should be known at the store floor….and that requires a thorough knowledge of the shoppers’ habits.

Hillel A
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Hillel A
15 years 10 months ago

I would first look at the analysis done by the cable company. Due to high inflow of the Asian in America, it’s time for statistics again. A market study has to be done. But one thing which should not be neglected is that customers are king for the company. Analysis will show region wise how things have to be applied, but English will dominate the market as it is spoken/understood worldwide.

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