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‘Myx’-ing in Reality to Reach Asian-Americans

Myx TV is looking to reach an underserved Asian-American audience seeking English-language content that reflects its image and culture. Launched in 2007, the 15-million subscriber network offers a lineup of predominantly unscripted content, such as I’m Asian American and … and cooking competition show Eat Your Words. The programming showcases Asian-Americans but is designed for a much broader multicultural audience. Multichannel News programming editor R. Thomas Umstead recently spoke with Myx TV general manager Miguel Santos about the network’s distribution and programming strategy as it vies for mindshare among Asian-American viewers.

MCN:Myx TV initially launched as a music-themed service but recently moved to a more reality-based lineup. Why did you make that change?

Miguel Santos: There is not enough representation for Asian-Americans on reality television, so I think it’s also a good opportunity for the rest of the country to see how Asians really are and to break some stereotypes. That’s really our goal — and to entertain people.

MCN:Is your target audience large and broad enough to build a network around?

MS: It’s our base audience. It’s still our primary audience, and we’re a growing demo. Based on all the research that’s coming up and all the studies, it’s a fast-growing, affluent group, so at least we represent a home for them on cable. At the same time we definitely want to be more multicultural, and our programming is reflective of that.

Producers would always ask me, “Do you just cast Asians?” And I always say no. We put everyone in, as long as it makes a great story and as long as it’s true. Besides, the reality is, Asians don’t just live with fellow Asians. America is a multicultural nation. We want to reflect that. If we’re going to do true reality, it has to be a reflection of the marketplace.

MCN:I’ve looked at a number of studies on how multicultural viewers access television programming and it seems that Asian Americans in particular are watching less television but are increasingly viewing content on other devices. Is Myx TV a multiplatform play as well?

MS: Definitely. We also recognize that the market has changed, and Asian- Americans are the quickest to adapt to new technology. So we definitely have to go beyond just traditional cable. And thankfully the cable systems themselves are also adapting.

MCN:What is the advantage of being an English language network targeting an Asian-American audience? Does it help or hurt the opportunity to get distribution and viewership?

MS: Actually it hasn’t. Because we are so unique, people are intrigued by that, and then we’re slowly building buzz around our shows. So our focus now, really is our programming, and the reality programming has been helping us tremendously.

There is a big opportunity to show everyone that Asian- Americans are not foreign; it’s not out of the country, and it’s not [different] in language. The main difference between us and other Asian networks is that it’s in English, so anyone could watch it. And people don’t realize that Asian pop culture has been around for decades.

People like watching those martial-arts movies with bad English dubs — one of our flagship programming blocks is called Movies So Good. We show those ridiculous movies that people like Quentin Tarantino and yourself would watch.

MCN:Why haven’t we seen a lot of Asian-American programming on television?

MS: I would say the timing wasn’t right for an Asian- American network. Now with the Internet age and just everything going digital, there is more awareness of different kinds of culture, subsets, different communities. Everything has become so much more fragmented. It also benefited us that there’s now an opening for Asian-flavored entertainment in American media.

Asians are also still the newest migrant group in the country. So if you look at the history of Asians in America, it is still not as extensive as Europeans or African Americans or even Hispanics. It took a while also for the other minority groups to get recognition, and I think we’re sort of seeing that with the Asian segment.

MCN:Does the success of shows like ABC’sFresh Off the Boathelp build your case for the inclusion of more Asian- American programming?

MS: Everyone is starting to share cultures now. People are starting to come into America and share their stuff. If you look at the music industry, the majority is not American … everyone has an accent. You should also look at TV that way as well. I think the entertainment industry has become so global. There shouldn’t be a problem with Asians getting in on the action as well, whether they be Asian-Americans or Asians from Asia.

MCN:You mentioned your music base and your reality programming. Are you looking to expand your originals further, maybe get into scripted content?

MS: Yes, definitely. Scripted is tricky, but producers have been pitching scripted content. I think it’s safe to say that it’s possible over the next two years, for sure, that we’d get into our first scripted show. I’m kinda nervous about it to be honest with you. [Laughs.] It could go either way. But there’s no harm in trying, I think.

MCN:With regard to being an independent network in this very crowded marketplace, how difficult are you finding it to get your voice out there amongst all the clutter?

MS: That’s a very good question. We are backed by ABSCBN International, which is the largest media company in the Philippines. So they are not independent in the Philippines. They are establishment … they’re basically the Comcast of the Philippines. They own everything.

Here, of course, it’s a different market. So I think the best way to cut through the clutter is just really stick to our guns of what we’re trying to do. I don’t think we’ll succeed if we just copy other networks and see what they do, because they could probably do it better than we can. We truly are multicultural as a network and we want to work with people who understand that mindset and could add to our portfolio of products that would basically get the message across better.