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Gary Wang is aiming to win 100m Chinese-language viewers worldwide for his TV channels within 10 years – up from the 4m he reaches outside Taiwan today.
But what distinguishes Mr Wang, the founder and chairman of Eastern Multimedia Group (EMG), Taiwan’s largest media enterprise, from most of his peers is that he is not pinning any hopes on the People’s Republic of China.
“The Chinese media market will not open up for at least another 10 years,” said Mr Wang in a rare interview.
“We want to become the leading media for the Chinese-speaking world, but I see huge risks and little return in China itself for the foreseeable future,” he told the Financial Times.
EMG, which owns the largest multiple system cable TV operator in Taiwan and the third-largest in Asia, along with subsidiaries in broadcasting and home shopping, expects sales to hit T$60bn (US$1.8bn) and profit more than T$4bn this year.
But the group argues it has outgrown its tiny home market and has embarked on an aggressive internationalisation strategy – rare among the island’s non-
manufacturing enterprises. EMG’s TV channels can already be received in more than 50 countries, including large parts of Eastern China via satellite.
In the years ahead, Mr Wang wants to expand to reach two-thirds of the 150m overseas Chinese around the world. “China itself will be a great market when it is ready. But you can’t force it,” he said. “For the foreseeable future, the Chinese
government will, if anything, further tighten control of the media.”
Mr Wang is equally reluctant to set up his home shopping business in China. In Taiwan, the business holds 90 per cent market share and is expected to account for more than half of group revenue this year. But in China, the business model would be too easy for local competitors to emulate, he said.
EMG’s China strategy is to export its own branded products which it distributes on its home shopping network in Taiwan, such as the De Mon cosmetics series, to China for sale through third party networks.
It also sells soap operas in China, although sales are still small – EMG’s sales of TV content totalled US$1m last year.
Despite Mr Wang’s doubts about the Chinese market, he sees events there as driving EMG’s globalisation strategy.
For instance, he sees the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing as a prime opportunity to generate a sharp increase in overseas revenue and market share.
“By 2008, we must be present in as many Chinese-speaking homes and as many hotels worldwide as possible because the Olympics will be something every Chinese outside China wants to watch,” he said.
This week, EMG signed a co-operation agreement with Cendant, the US$20bn conglomerate that operates hotel franchises and car rental, travel and real estate services.
“Under this alliance, we win a huge amount of new travel content for both our broadcasting and our home shopping and e-commerce operations,” said Mr Wang. “But most importantly, our television channels will be present in Cendant’s 8,000 hotels with 600,000 rooms worldwide. Thus we can globalise in one step.”
The alliance with the US-based group also helps Mr Wang consolidate his new businesses, amid concerns he is diversifying too much, too quickly.
Mr Wang is one of the heirs of the Rebar Group, one of Taiwan’s biggest and most diversified conglomerates.
Having started as a broadcaster with 30 employees and revenues of T$200m in 1991, his arm of the family empire has since expanded well beyond the media business and now includes subsidiaries in travel services, insurance and event management.
EMG also operates the Taipei Dome, a multifunctional facility that opened this month.
Mr Wang argues these businesses are necessary to complement his media empire. “All these provide content, and content is king,” he said.
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