Outdoor Channel Reaping Rewards Overseas

Outdoor Channel says that one year into a plan to expand internationally, it is nearly a third of the way to its five-year goal of picking up 15 million subscribers overseas.

"We had a first-mover opportunity," in the hunting and fishing space, Randy Brown, the channel's executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing, said. "There were really no incumbents in Asia or Europe."

Outdoor Channel's HD originals were a particular draw in regions hungry for high-definition content, he said.

Since entering the global arena in August 2010, the network says it now reaches 4.5 million full time subscribers internationally.

Outdoor partnered with London-based Chello Zone for distribution across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Namely: Bosnia & Herzegovina, Malta, Russia, Scandinavia, Serbia and the Ukraine in Europe; and Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Gaza, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Yemen in Africa and the Middle East.

It teamed with Singapore-based Multi Channels Asia for distribution across the Asia-Pacific region. Namely: Indonesia, Maldives, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Gaining a foothold in the biggest international market of them all, Outdoor also has licensed programming to run in China as part of a daily block on the region's Fishing World Channel. That adds some 60 million digital pay-TV households to Outdoor's reach.

That licensing deal is not as profitable as launching an actual channel, Brown said, but it's a step along the way and, as he said, "I don't see a lot of networks announcing content deals in China."

Brown said it turns out hunting and fishing are "universal pursuits" that translate well outside the United States.

Asian viewers prefer fishing shows over hunting, Brown said, while European audiences prefer hunting to fishing.

While U.S. hunters prefer shows about whitetail deer, European viewers prefer safari-style big-game hunting.

The Asian version of Outdoor Channel also targets "adventure seekers" as well as outdoorsmen, and has added shows on kiteboarding and surfing, Brown said. "I would say we are watching with interest to see how that tests and performs over there."

Broad digital distribution in foreign markets also means Outdoor doesn't have to try to persuade distributors to put the service on analog, Brown said.

In 2012, Brown said the goal is to expand more in Korea, Australia and New Zealand, saying most of the Asian carriage currently is in Thailand and that the adventurous fare should play well there. Taiwan also represents a significant opportunity, he said, after Outdoor works out a delay in obtaining a downlink license.