Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Local stations take aim at foreign TV markets

Local stations take aim at foreign TV markets

Local stations take aim at foreign TV markets


Fierce competition in the local media industry has spurred a number of Cambodian

television stations to adopt forward-thinking global strategies and international

programming standards in order to outpace competitors.

Dylyka and Harry, VJs on Apsara TV's The DJ Show, take a break from editing duties in the back of the station's mobile studio. Competition in the TV market has grown tremendously over the last few years, forcing TV stations to reach out to younger audiences and foreign markets in their quest for the almighty ad dollar.

Of the seven channels operating, most are striving to improve technology and commercial

partnerships, making it possible to explore new international markets and provide

Cambodians with an increasingly diverse range of entertainment.

"Competition in a legal way is always good because it forces you to think of

new ideas for great events and great programs," said Vivo Pol, marketing manager

of Cambodian Television Network (CTN). "We are actually developing so that we

can stay number one all the time. We are competing against the other six channels

to be the best."

Pol said he had noticed rapid growth in the local media industry over the past few

years, and believed it stemmed from three factors: improved management, increasing

investment in local programming, and a greater focus on viewer interests.

"[The channels] are picking up on things that are happening worldwide and they

have learned to make things more creative and professional," he added.

CTN currently broadcasts to 27 countries throughout Asia, Europe and the US, and

has a growth strategy focused on new programming, and international expansion.

"We are trying to improve and develop and create new programs that Cambodians

have not seen," he said. "We try to organize big events for our audience,

including international concerts that we spend half a million, or $1 million to bring


Pol estimated that CTN held a 55 to 60 percent market share, with TV5 and Bayon its

closest competitors. But he said it had become difficult to gauge the market position

of the other channels, because they were all competing so closely.

TVK, the country's only state-owned television station, has more than 257 employees

and broadcasts across Asia and parts of Europe as well as the US and Canada.

But Kem Kumwath, TVK director general, said it was a constant struggle to compete

with other channels.

"TVK would like to increase the quality of the programs, the topics of the programs

that we broadcast, and the area we broadcast to, but we are very, very slow compared

with Bayon TV and CTN. They have very powerful digital equipment."

Kumwath said TVK's small budget hindered the company's ability to grow and compete

against the other television stations.

"We cannot compete with the other channels in business, because the other stations

are private. If the government gives TVK a bigger amount of money then we can add

more programs."

After signing a management contract with the French company Solaris International

in January 2006, Apsara Television has introduced new programming, both produced

in-house and imported from overseas, in a bid to entice "VIP and upperclass"

viewers and the youth market.

Olivier Sieber, the executive director of Apsara Television, said though Apsara was

"owned by the Cambodian People's Party," improving the channel was a challenge

because of the difficulties of sourcing advertising revenue.

"All the channels work with advertising and we fight against each other for

sponsorship. So now the prices are lower than three years ago and the economic situation

is very difficult for everybody," Sieber said.

But despite the increased competitiveness, in the past year Apsara has tripled its

income - an achievement that Sieber puts down to sponsorship deals and strategic

partnerships. He hopes that within five years Apsara will be broadcast in the lucrative

media markets of the US, Australia, and across South-East Asia.

Sieber said his aim was to diversify Apsara's programming, by introducing more documentaries,

talk shows and educational programs, as well as a range of popular entertainment

shows. He said by using attractive emcees and putting a greater emphasis on makeup,

costume and set design, he hoped Apsara would entice more viewers.

"The other channels copy, so we have to create new shows all the time,"

he said. "Step by step we began to change the programs. But the thing now is

that we must produce such bizarre things to compete."

Early in 2007 Apsara gained access to satellite broadcasting, enabling the channel

to broadcast throughout Cambodia and into parts of Thailand and Vietnam. By the end

of April, Apsara television will broadcast throughout France via IPTV, an internet-television


"For my business this is very important. There are more opportunities for commercials

and partnerships in France than there are here," he said. "At the moment

there are no other Cambodian channels operating in France. It's a very good market

for us - there are 200,000 Khmer people living there and they have never received

a Cambodian channel."

Philippe Decaux, artistic director for Apsara Television, said the channel was improving

its production values by utilizing both foreign and local talent.

"We have improved our shooting and editing. Before it was just basic cuts, no

real sense in editing and filling and transition. Now the channel is starting to

have an image of producing quality shows," he said.

Decaux said Apsara's staff had been key to the company's growth, because they had

adapted to change very quickly and were easy to work with.

"There is a lot of talent here, believe me. I always found the Khmer people

were extremely natural and this is the beauty of it," he said. "We don't

have to teach them the art of drama. They are absolutely natural. They are happy

to learn, they are fast to learn and they have talent."

Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith said that competition in the media industry

had forced many companies to improve their image and programming in order to remain

financially viable.

"To survive you must globalize. Good things result from competition. This creates

more jobs and forces people in the company to improve the quality, knowledge and


Kanharith said foreigners and Cambodian expatriates often have a "distorted"

image of the Kingdom, so the international broadcast of Cambodian television would

help to portray a more accurate picture of the country.