Targeting Specific Groups

Monday, May 2, 2005

Tackling The Lucrative U.S. Ethnic Broadcasting Market

May 02, 2005 - With ethnic populations in the United States growing, the need for television programming that addresses these markets also is on the rise. While the major cable and satellite providers offer programming to serve a variety of ethnic markets, Home2US Communications Inc. is taking ethnic programming one step further by offering a direct-to-home service that focuses solely on select ethnic markets that show the most growth potential..

Seeing the ethnic markets underserved by existing players in the broadcasting market, Home2US launched its DTH service about a year and a half ago.

"If you look at the progression of [the ethnic programming] market in the United States, even including the majors like DirecTV and especially [EchoStar's] Dish Network, almost all of the international channels or the so-called ethnic channels have been collected on an ad hoc basis in a very eclectic way so far," Home2US CEO Emrah Ozkan told Satellite News. "If you look at the entire landscape, you might see 100 channels in the United States trying to serve close to 35 million people. There are thousands of channels that would like to get into the United States, they just don't know how to get into this market."

Since its launch, Home2US has attracted about 100,000 users to its mix of free-to-air and premium subscription-based programming. The company's free offering generally consists of educational programming, as well as family entertainment and some religious programming. Ozkan said about half of its users subscribe to the company's premium service offerings, Ibraz Anwar, COO at Home2US, said the company is on track to exceed its goal of attracting between 600,000 and 700,000 users and delivering between 60 and 70 channels of targeted programming in its first five years of existence.

To achieve these goals, the company is targeting a few select ethnic markets. "We look at the ethnic concentrations in the United States and before we go out to any market to talk to the broadcasters, we bear in mind what the ethnic concentrations are and where are the gaps," Anwar said. "When you look at the channels we have now--all of the channels that are coming into the platform--you will see concentrations from Southeast Asia. We also are looking at South America and parts of Europe, South Asia and the Middle East."

Anwar highlighted the Spanish speaking population in the United States as an example of how the major broadcasters do not necessarily serve their needs.

"When I talk about the South American market, we found out from consumers in the Spanish speaking communities from Central American and South America that they are more focused on programming from their own region rather than being a keen viewer to the existing Spanish located and available on Dish Network because most of it is Mexican Spanish," Anwar said. "These people would like to associate more with programming from their region."

One thing you will not find on Home2US' platform is programming generated in the United States, but that does not mean there will not be any English language programming.

"The objective [for carrying English language programming] is to provide a different perspective on the international front," Ozkan said. "If you look at the media landscape here, you will see that there are many major international events that do not get coverage in the U.S. There has to be some breaking war or some earthquake [or other significant event] to get a couple of minutes on the major networks. But there are just tons of things everyday that people are dying to hear and get a different perspective on.

Home2US would eventually like to provide 15 to 20 English language channels as part of its service, Ozkan said. Not Competing With Existing Providers Home2US does not see itself as a competitor to existing satellite and cable providers, but rather a complementary service. "Most of our subscribers get their mainstream programming from either cable or one of the major DTH providers," Ozkan said.

Since Home2US views its service as complementary, the company has not ruled out partnering with cable or DTH providers to expand its reach, Anwar said.

"We wanted to make sure we obtained a certain amount of threshold and a certain amount of name recognition," Anwar said. "Once we reach an optimum level, we would be ready for that relationship if the opportunity comes."

--Gregory Twachtman