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Comcast cable channel targets Asian viewers

New network will feature strictly Asian-themed programming
/ Source: Hollywood Reporter

Cable giant Comcast Corp. will expand its efforts in ethnic-targeted programming with the conversion of a recent channel acquisition into an all-Asian network.

International Channel Networks (ICN), which Comcast acquired from Liberty Media Corp. in July, will yank in-language programming for U.S.-based European and Middle Eastern audiences from its flagship network, International Channel. It will be rebranded and replenished with strictly Asian-themed programming in the second quarter of the year.

The retargeting reflects the increased attention being paid to the Asian-American market, which is 12.5 million strong and heavily concentrated in major urban areas. Although their sum is about one-third the size of the black and Hispanic population, they represent half the spending power — an appealing factor for advertisers.

The sector has attracted other all-Asian channels as well, including WorldAsia and ImaginAsia. Comcast, meanwhile, also has a stake in TVOne, a new channel targeting blacks in the 25-54 demographic.

International Channel, which is available in 10 million homes, is looking to drive distribution growth with the conversion. To help along that goal, ICN recently allowed cable operators to transmit International and premium channel TV Asia at no extra cost to give viewers access to Asian news broadcasts during the tsunami disaster.

The new channel’s morning block will be composed of acquired news broadcasts that originally air just hours earlier all over the Asian continent.

In primetime, the focus will be on English-language original programming, which International already has found success with through a block called Asia Street. ICN will triple its investment in original programming for efforts including an animated series pilot in development titled “Cooleyville,” which chronicles an Asian-American family.

Most of the channel programming will be composed of acquisitions in a mix of Asian languages, everything from Korean dramas to Bollywood films from South Asia.

ICN will still serve audiences no longer represented on its flagship network through its suite of 21 premium channels catering specifically to languages including Italian, Polish and Arabic.