1992-2008

FARRELL MEISEL – In the News:

An Analysis of the Polish broadcast/cable/satellite market  by Farrell Meisel (April 2008 in Video Age International)

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Video Age International  September/October 2008

Ex Execs Find Reel Work as Consultants

By Leah Hochbaum Rosner

In the film and television business, life doesn’t end at retirement or when “looking for new opportunities.” In fact, in many cases, it starts at those stages — most often, in consulting. And that’s when the real work begins. But what exactly does a consultant do? And why are they so in demand? VideoAge sought out the folks who’ve done it and lived to tell the tale.

Consultancy is now an art that is in demand worldwide. We contacted a wide selection of former TV executives in Europe and Canada, but it was mostly the Americans who were willing to speak openly. However, Frank Mulder, who recently retired from his job as a buyer for Holland’s Public TV Broadcasting, commented: “It’s no use being a consultant in the Netherlands,” noting that what buyers want is only to be informed early about upcoming product. “Nowadays, buyers prefer to deal directly with production companies and majors.”

As far as money is concerned, a consultant tends to make a good living, with income around $200,000-plus per year. Jobs are few and far between, allowing for “good-quality” family time for those who still have kids at home or a tolerable spouse. For steady income, some American consultants, especially those in the Los Angeles area, also toil as expert witnesses in court cases involving disputes over contracts, libraries and the dollar value of content. And some even generate revenue by sitting on various media company boards.

“Consultants, as a rule, are unemployed executives with a certain skill set,” said Los Angeles-based Norman Horowitz, a former bigwig at MGM (and other studios) who’s worked in an advisor capacity since he was “thrown out” in the late ’90s at the ripe old age of 65. “People want to hire you to exploit that skill set,” he said, then continued: “People might also hire you out of fear. When an exec has just left his or her job, people think, ‘What can he do for me later?’ or ‘How can he hurt me later?’ They take my calls to make sure they’re covered.”

According to Horowitz, the word “consultant” is actually a misnomer. “They hire you to do a job, but it’s not every day all day. Few companies actually hire people to ‘consult,’ they want the consultant to actually do things for them on a part-time basis. They don’t want you to just consult.”

Horowitz didn’t mean to get into consulting. He just sort of fell into it. Shortly after his ouster at MGM, he took a trip to Australia with his son. “An independent movie producer said to me: ‘While you’re there, here’s a list of features I haven’t been able to sell Down Under, why don’t you try to sell them,’” said Horowitz. When he got there, the head of a network took a quick meeting with him — and agreed to buy six movies on the spot. “I made $100,000 in 15 minutes,” said Horowitz. “They were buying my knowledge, my pedigree, my business expertise.” In addition to selling films to Aussies, Horowitz has also ventured to Hong Kong to hire a manager for an animation company and was recently retained by a concert promoter in Canada to “put some stuff together.”

While Horowitz only got into the consulting biz accidentally, others pursue it as if it were a regular job. In the late ’90s, Farrell Meisel served as managing director in the London offices of The Movie Channel. During his tenure, he was often approached by competing companies for business advice. “I couldn’t do anything because of the conflict of interest,” he said. “But all the while I was amassing a large filofax of contacts.”

As he prepared to leave The Movie Channel and the U.K., Meisel began fishing among those who’d expressed interest in his services. The first to bite was Turkey-based Ihlas Media. “I helped reposition them,” said Meisel, who’s currently working with the firm on another initiative. “They’re very enterprising people in a very conflicted part of the world,” he said.

As a consultant, Meisel sees himself as a jack-of-all-trades. “I’ve done everything. I’ve gone from department to department to examine [a station’s] workflow, or lack thereof. I’ve taken a look at every part of management and how each department is managed. When I go in, it’s usually to reengineer or reorganize — not necessarily to cut.”

Consulting has led Meisel to nearly every nook and cranny of the world —including Warsaw, Romania and the Middle East — and he wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s harder work than a full-time job because you’re working in so many different time zones at the same time.” He especially loves lending a hand to TV stations in emerging markets such as Eastern Europe. “There, a lot of the channels are only now coming out of the deep freeze of the Cold War,” he said. “They’re only now getting into the first generation of people who weren’t raised on Communist TV. The stations there have more of a desire to take risks and to try things. We don’t really do that anymore in the U.S.”

Meisel has heard the old adage that most entertainment consultants are retired studio bigwigs, but sees things differently. “When I got out of the day-to-day stuff,” he said, “I didn’t like where broadcasting was going — excessive advertisements, excessive repeats, etc. This way, I get to take what I’ve learned and be entrepreneurial… And I don’t have to go back to a corporate job.”

Whereas Meisel thrives on the fact that he gets to work for different companies in different cities on any given day, others loathe the lifestyle. “I’m not really doing an awful lot right now,” said a Los Angeles-based consultant and retired studio VIP who would rather remain anonymous. “I don’t want to spend half my life looking for work. I don’t like having to go out and sell myself.” Lucky for him, though, “clients always seem to come to me. My rep is out there. My work ethic is out there. People know that I know things. If, on the other hand, I was Joe Blow who worked in the back office of some indie for years, I’d probably have to actively stimulate business.”

On the very day that he left his job, he got a call from a firm looking to establish its sales department. He liked having something to do, but “it was sort of intense,” he said. “Whether it’s eight days or eight weeks, when you’re a consultant, you just go go go all the time.”

For this consultant, the hardest thing about the gig is keeping as much up to date as you possibly can… now that you’re out of the day-to-day business dealings. “The challenge is to network, research and to stay in touch with the people who can help you stay current.”

Russ Kagan, a New York consultant who’s worked with companies such as Italy’s RAI, disagreed, saying that through consulting, he essentially gets a master’s degree every couple of years in where things are. “What I love about this business is change,” he said. “I’ve been very lucky to be able to go from distribution to launching channels to producing miniseries to mobile to digital to the net, etc. With each opportunity, I get to deal with different people and different companies. I thoroughly enjoy what I do.”

For the most part, Anthony Friscia, an Oak Park, California-based consultant, concurred. However, he said, “I’d prefer a regular job. There’s more stability there. Plus, with consulting, you don’t get bonuses such as medical insurance or a 401(k) [retirement fund].” Friscia, who began his career as a financial analyst at Viacom in 1975, and has served as a consultant for Twentieth Century Fox, among other companies, has recently become involved with Computer Applications Development (CAD), a Burbank software firm that created a computer system that studios can use to check the availability of a film or TV show’s rights in a given territory. Friscia, who cites his areas of expertise as finance and contracts, finds his line of work especially fulfilling when he gets in on the ground floor. “I see big things ahead for CAD,” he said.

Whether you’re reading contracts, picking apart a company’s silly hierarchical structure or selling films in all corners of the globe, when you’re a consultant, you might think you work for yourself, but you’re on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“I often tell people that I work nine to five,” said Kagan with a laugh. “But I mean nine to five in every time zone where I have a client!”

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Is the TV biz changing so much that it’s staying the same?(In Search of a Model)

Digital technology and the Internet are rendering the current television business model ineffective. It was that fact which provided the impetus for a group of four TV biz experts to meet during the most recent MIPCOM. The group informally exchanged views on the new paths the industry could and might take.

The Cannes agenda was shaped by several news developments such as: Rupert Murdoch’s interest in merging his satellite TV service Sky Italia with Telecom Italia, Italy’s telephone company; the interest of Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset in the same telephone company, and the Italian government’s interest in keeping Telecom Italia’s fixed lines out of Berlusconi’s (or his proxies’) hands.

Similarly, in the U.S., Murdoch is said to be ready to divest of his satellite service, DirecTV, in order to focus on other forms of transport and consolidate his grip on content.

Indeed, worldwide focus is now on content and transport: cable, telephone, radio spectrum and, in the future, power lines.

As far as spectrum is concerned, the U.S. government just received bids of $14 billion for cellular radio frequencies auctioned to companies that want to build a wireless broadband network.

In view of the fact that only 20 percent of U.S. households use aerials to receive television, it is envisioned that U.S. TV station groups could better monetize their allocated frequencies by renting them out to wireless transport services.

Talk in Cannes turned to the various challenges that convergence of digital technology and the Internet pose to the TV industry on the technical, regulatory and business model levels.

The moderator of the get-together was VideoAge’s Dom Serafini, who was assisted by Italian editorial contributor Enzo Chiarullo.

The four panelists, who have expertise in all areas of the business of television, were: Sal Campo, consultant for, among others, Digital Age Solutions; Russ Kagan of International Program Consultants; Farrell E. Meisel, president of FMI Media Group, and James P. Marrinan of Entertainment Media Consultants. Collectively, the panelists are familiar with studio production and distribution, satellite and cable TV, broadcast TV, mobile TV and most other new technologies.

Serafini’s preamble stated that, in order to face new challenges, the business of television has to be redefined. Companies have to abandon their “vertical integration” and “jack of all trade” philosophies and opt for one core business–be it transport, content, advertising or service–since no one company could, or should, be in more than one of the above-mentioned fields.

Interestingly, in the same vein, Television, the Royal Television Society’s bulletin, asked CBS Paramount’s Leslie Moonves: “If you had to choose between your content business and your distribution business, which would you select?” To which he answered: “Probably the content business. But I don’t want to give up my distribution yet.”

According to the Financial Times (The Lex Column, Sept. 17, 2006), “The claim that content companies benefit from controlling distribution is becoming less credible in the digital world.”

Furthermore, Serafini predicted a return to governments’ active roles in regulating all four of those fields.

Finally, it is said that the combination of digital technology and the Internet has developed a streaming technology that will replace and unify all current digital TV standards.

A set-top box that adapts the stream coming from any form of transport (cable, DSL, broadcast, cellular, etc.) to a regular TV set is also being envisioned.

Indeed, according to Marrinan, the licensing divisions of the U.S. studios are now working on a single-point distribution concept, with digital rights management technology that is able to recognize the interface. This means that a file containing content is not only able to recognize the player–be it a TV, PC, iPod or cell; but also to identify the mode of transport, so that the concept of windows will be preserved.

In other words, if the content stream goes through cable, it’s the cable window; if by airwaves, it’s the broadcast window, and so on. “In two years time the studios will forward-motion this delivery development,” he added.

Meanwhile, stated Marrinan, “The basic television business has not changed. We still have content, mass audience, advertising, and delivery. Transport (i.e. “delivery”) is in play right now and the competition is among the delivery services. The game is between two paths: cable and Telcos.”

To Campo, “the key is multiplatform and content delivery network technology (CDN), because the key is to monitor, measure and monetize,” where “monitor” indicates the window that the audiovisual stream is utilizing, “measure” is the ability to account for every user and “monetize” offers a way to maximize revenues. The CDN technology can deliver media content in any form over multiple distribution platforms (i.e. cellular, VoD, IPTV, etc.). CDN files are compressed, thus requiring less storage, yet they are “robust,” meaning reliable, and backed up by “redundancy” or a repeated form of delivery to assure quality.

According to Meisel: “We’re in a stage of experimentation. The industry doesn’t fully understand it yet, and it is going to evolve, but it will come down to content.”

Then, picking up on the regulatory premises of Serafini, Meisel added, “We don’t need regulations. Regulators don’t fully understand what’s going on. The consumers can make that determination.” At which point Russ Kagan interjected: “The government will regulate because it has to find a way to tax them.”

On the subject of cellular and mobile telephony’s migration to broadcast frequencies, Kagan said, “There are ‘frequency swaps’ going on right now in markets, with early FCC [authority] approval for mobile operators taking over broadcast-assigned bandwidth frequencies. Swaps often include payments to broadcasters to give up the frequency early. [These] are not the ‘prime’ network affiliated stations, but a lot of independent and low-power UHF stations, especially in the Midwest [area of the U.S.].” He then added, “All of the broadcast frequencies will be reallocated anyway by January 2009, when stations must give up their analog transmissions and move to their HD [high-definition] assigned frequencies.”

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Posted: Wed., Sep. 13, 2006, 6:04pm PT (Daily Variety)

Meisel reactivates FMI Media

By ELIZABETH GUIDER

Farrell Meisel, an international media vet whose career has spanned the globe from England and Germany to Turkey, Russia and Southeast Asia, has reactivated his own global consultancy FMI Media, after his latest stint with Alhurra TV in the Mideast.From a new base in southern California, Meisel will, effective immediately, do strategic planning in general media management, creating hands-on solutions in programming, news, branding and marketing. No clients have as yet been officially specified.

For the past three years, Meisel provided infrastructure design, program development and news format expertise for Alhurra, a U.S. government-backed pan-regional, satellite-delivered newsie, which began beaming in early 2004 to Arabic-speaking countries in 22 countries, including Iraq. Meisel also guided the training of Alhurra management and staff in commercial TV management and production techniques.

Before his stint with Alhurra, Meisel was COO of the Media Corp. of Singapore

(MediaCorp) from February 2001 through August 2003. MediaCorp is one of Southeast Asia’s largest broadcasters, with a 75% audience share.

Prior to joining MediaCorp, Meisel, as principal in FMI Media from 1997 to 2001, repped clients in various markets, including TGRT in Turkey, SBS Broadcasting in western Europe, and the CTC network in Russia. He was also a senior VP for HBO Intl. based in London in the early 90s. Before becoming an overseas TV exec, Meisel served in senior management posts in the U.S., including WWOR in New York during the 1980s.

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Meisel to head up TV Puls

By Chris Dziadul | August 20, 2007 | 05:49 UK

According to local reports, Farrell Meisel has been confirmed as the head of the News Corp.-backed Polish station TV Puls. A US citizen, he initially took up the post in May. Rupert Murdoch-backed News Corp. bought into TV Puls in June 2006 and has gradually been transforming it into a station capable of taking on TVP, Polsat and TVN, the three dominant players in Poland’s TV industry. One of TV Puls’s main strategies is to increase its still limited coverage of the country. (Broadband News)

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Posted: November 22, 2004 (Daily and Weekly Variety)

Lessons from abroad

By EILEEN TASCA

Work in foreign nations offers unique opportunities, lessons for U.S. execs

Nothing more clearly illustrates for Farrell Meisel how the Hollywood mystique cuts across borders than a limo ride he once took in Turkey with actor Roger Moore.

According to Meisel, after a fight broke out between the driver and a man on the street, Moore rolled his window down and calmly asked, “Is there a problem?” The other man gasped, “James Bond!” and walked away. Moore replied, “Works every time.”

For Meisel, senior managing general consultant at Alhurra, an Arabic-lingo satellite service funded by the U.S. Congress, working abroad was a way to honor the memory of his father, a refugee from Nazi Germany, and to spread what he learned about the TV business as a program director at WWOR in New York. “I was given a gift, and I wanted to give something back.” he says.

The programming model developed at WWOR put the indie station on the map by offering alternatives to network programming. “When the networks were showing ‘Magnum,’ we ran movies,” he says. “We still managed to get 4 to 5 ratings in primetime and 3 to 6 up against late news.”

This model successfully spread to other U.S. cable channels and then to overseas commercial stations. Meisel says it works because consumers around the world are really very similar.

Meisel took his first overseas assignment at Turner Intl. Moscow in 1992, helping to launch TV6, the first commercial channel to go on the air after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His international resume includes stints at the Movie Channel Middle East, Time Warner Intl. HBO in London, TGRT in Turkey and the Media Corp. of Singapore.

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Posted: Sun., Aug. 3, 2003, 2:48pm PT (Daily Variety)

Meisel tapped for MTN duty

World Brief

By MAGZ OSRORNE

The U.S. government’s Broadcasting Board of Governors has tapped Farrell Meisel as consultant for the Middle East Television Network (MTN), a new 24-hour Arabic language satellite news and information channel, to be launched later this year.Meisel has been Chief Operating Officer for Singapore broadcaster MediaCorp Group since Feb. 2001 and worked closely with CEO Ernest Wong in the months leading up to the liberalization of the territory’s media sector.

“We wish Farrell and his wife Vered, the very best as they return to the U.S., after nearly 12 years abroad,” said Wong.

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Television Asia

July 1, 2001

Singapore’s newly competitive terrestrial environment is providing some of the best entertainment around at the moment

Singapore’s newly competitive free-TV screens are providing the country’s most-watched on- and off-screen industry action. Although some of the pre-launch uncertainty has cleared, the full impact of the May 2001 launch of two new terrestrial channels — SPH MediaWorks’ Mandarin-language Channel U and the English-language TV Works — on a market that operated as a Media Corporation of Singapore (MediaCorp) monopoly for about three decades is yet to be assessed.

What is clear is that neither of MediaWorks’ channels did as well as promised at first, prompting immediate schedule shuffles and programme production and budget adjustments.

Rival MediaCorp also adjusted tactics in line with the emerging reality of a competitor that does not appear to be — at least intially — as powerful as it promised to be. Confident of an effective strategy, which he says minimised damage to MediaCorp’s market share, chief operating officer Farrell Meisel says the station will not continue to spend as much on acquisitions as it did in SPH MediaWorks’ pre-launch phase. Meisel adds that the process of adjusting to a new environment will be ongoing. “No responsible broadcaster can … just buy everything — and we’re not going to buy everything,” he says.

When the government, in June 2000, announced its decision to open up the terrestrial market. MediaCorp snapped up rights to most top US series. On MediaCorp’s Channel 5 schedule for the three months following SPH MediaWorks’ launch were, among others, new series of The XFiles, The Sopranos, NYPD Blue, Ally McBeal, Friends, Felicity, Ed and The Gilmore Girls. MediaCorp also bought Who Wants to be a Millionaire, which launched in May, and The Weakest Link, which has not yet been scheduled.

In yet another adjustment, MediaCorp repositioned its 24-hour free-TV sports channel, SportsCity, as a mixed entertainment channel targetting the young and the trendy. The Mandarin-language City TV, offering 35 hours of entertainment and 50 hours of sports a week, launched on May 14.

As a first step in its own reorganisation, SPH MediaWorks cut TV Works’ local production output in half — from 10 hours a week to five, including sitcoms — as the station focused resources more tightly across smaller time-bands, says SPH MediaWorks’ CEO Lee Cheok Yew.

Lee is realistic about the challenge he faces. “We need to drastically improve [TV Works] ratings and awareness,” he says. “We were overoptimistic in terms of local production. We overextended and the quality suffered. Now we are refocusing our resources to come up with a few winners rather than many shows of average quality.”

The production team was also reorganised in a bid to boost performance and to increase commercial value. Further changes are expected in August, when the new production season begins.

MediaCorp’s blanket buys left TV Works in the cold on hit US syndicated programming for two years at least. TV Works has, instead, gone for British shows such as the comedy Goodness Gracious Me. The channel has also changed its policy on reality shows, game shows and formats, acquiring the finished series of The Mole and format rights to The Vault.

MediaCorp, meanwhile, is believed to have reigned in budgets for broader economic reasons. The move comes ahead of the bleak overall economic outlook for Singapore and, according to ACNielsen’s rate-card based figures, a 0.7 percent drop — US$59 million — in Singapore’s TV ad revenues in first quarter 2001. Industry sources believe the TV ad revenue drop may, in reality, be as much as 20 percent. The networks declined to disclose their advertising figures.

What MediaCorp will say, however, is that audience share at Channel 5 has increased as a result of the competition. Chinese Channel 8 suffered a 10 percentage point drop in P15+ audiences, “so we are doing quite well,” Meisel says.

Eight weeks after its launch, the prospects for MediaWorks’ Channel U looked brighter than those for TV Works. Lee says Channel U is closer to its audience-share targets than is TV Works, where ratings remain low. A good prime time rating for top English-language shows is around 3.5, which translates to about 105,000 viewers in the 15-plus age group. If TV Works is going to hit its audience share targets, it needs an average prime time rating of 1.5 to 2. “It’s achievable, but it’s going to be lots of hard work,” Lee says. “We got off to a false start.”

Among Channel U’s strengths, meanwhile, is its strong relationship with Chinese content creators around the region, Lee says. This includes a relationship with premier Chinese-language producer, Hong Kong’s Television Broadcasts Ltd (TVB) for, among other titles, Comic King. The movie is TVB’s first film effort, and is said to involve the largest amount of money MediaWorks has spent so far on a film acquisition. Channel U also signed a deal with one-time giant, Shaw Brothers, which is returning to movie production after 20 years.

In addition, Channel U has acquired a guaranteed 400 hours of drama programming a year from TVB, which currently supplies rival Channel 8. Channel 8 has in the past carried about 200 hours of TVB programming a year. The TVB deal with MediaWorks runs from 2002 to 2007, and also gives MediaWorks first refusal rights to the balance — about 160 hours — of TVB’s annual 560-hour drama output.

Top 10 Chinese Programmes
(8 - 14 July 200l) 

No.   ProgrammeChannel   Rating 

1 Top Fun Series 28   17.3
2 Untraceable Evidence II 8   15.1
3 Journey To The West II  8   14.7
4 Armed Reaction  8   14.5
5 News 8 At 108   12.7
6 Celebrity Squares   8   12.5
7 Divine Retribution  8   12.0
8 City Spy8   11.9
9 Masquerade Series 2 8   11.8
10My Genie8   10.8 

Source: Taylor Nelson SoFres P4+ (supplied by MediaCorp TV) 

Top 10 English Programmes
(8 - 14 July 2001) 

No.   ProgrammeChannel   Rating 

1 Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  5   9.6
2 Phua Chu Kang Pte Ltd   5   8.3
3 Mr Bean 5   7.5
4 2MM 5   7.2
5 Mr Kiasu5   5.9
6 Fabulous Friday Movie
  (Independence Day)  5   5.7
7 Beyond Belief Year 25   5.6
8 Guinness World
  Records Prime Time  5   4.8
9 Monday Mega Movie
  (Nick Of Time)  5   4.3
10Charmed Year 3  5   4.3 

Source: Taylor Nelson SoFres P4+ (supplied by MediaCorp TV) 

Notes: 

* Ratings are drawn from the Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS) ratings
system, which uses a sample size of 750 Singapore homes (about
3,000 residents aged 4 and above). 

* Singapore has two ratings systems: MediaCorp uses TNS.
MediaWorks uses ACNielsen. 

Channel U Top 10
(9 - 15 Jul 2001)
P15+ Tarps (%) 

1.Once Upon A Time In Shanghai   8.6
2.About Romance  5.2
3.Big Challenge  5.0
4.Tomato 4.8
5.A Place Of One's Own   4.5
6.Viva Variety   4.3
7.Young Master Of Shaolin4.1
8.Exchange Lives 4.0
9.10pm News  4.0
10.   Making Of Shaolin Soccer   3.9 

Base: People 15+ (2,995,000)
Source: ACNielsen Singapore (supplied by SPH MediaWorks)

So far, production from MediaWork’s StarEastWorks US$19-million joint venture with Hong Kong’s StarEast has not been factored into Channel U’s performance because the company is too new. The first shows are expected to be available in 0,4 2001.

With the local market at less than one million TV households, ex-Singapore revenues are one of the key components of growth. In addition to driving market development at home, the Singapore Broadcasting Authority’s (SBA) strategy is to generate more regional and international co-productions and to promote exports beyond the Chinese-speaking markets of Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

Broadcasters, production houses and producers are, to a greater or lesser degree, following the SBA’s lead onto the regional/international stage. Meisel says MediaCorp has developed relationships with partners in China, Malaysia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Lee says Channel U’s 300 hours of entertainment programming will be on show at MIPCom this year. China distribution plans are also being drawn up.

So far, there is no clear strategy for regional/international syndication of its English-language programming. “It’s a totally different market. On the English-language side, we have to survive in the local market”. For now.

The struggle is not over yet. Says Lee: “It’s only been eight weeks … We expected a fierce fight. But it’s early days yet.”

SINGAPORE STATISTICS

No of households: 923,300 (end 2000)

No of television households: approx 915,000 (99% penetration)

No of cable households: 270,000 (July 2001)

No of broadband households: 61,000 (SCV MaxOnline, July 2001); 40,000 (SingTel Magix, July 2001); 2,836 (Pacific Internet, March 2001)

No of terrestrial channels: 8 (Channel 5, Channel 8, Channel NewsAsia, CityTV, Suria, Central. Channel U, TV Works)

No of Cable operators: 1 (Singapore Cable Vision)

No of DTH satellite operators: 0

No of satellite channels operating out of Singapore: 17 (Oct 2000)

Source: Singapore Broadcasting Association (SBA), SingTel, Singapore Cable Vision. Pacific Internet

Posted: Wed., Apr. 4, 2001, 10:59pm PT (Daily Variety)

MediaCorp makes more millionaires

U.S., Singapore and Mandarin versions to air

By DON GROVES

SINGAPORE — Singapore’s MediaCorp TV is betting that not one but three versions of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” will spike the guns of new competitor MediaWorks.MediaCorp’s Channel 5 launched what it hopes will become “Millionaire” frenzy by skedding the first of 10 episodes of the U.S. production at 8 p.m. on March 14.

Following that will be the April 18 preem of the Singapore production, airing each Wednesday and Thursday at 8 p.m., a ploy intended to keep viewers away from MediaWorks’ two new channels, the English-lingo TV Works and Channel U (Mandarin), which debut May 21.

More to come

Spanning the multicultural realm, a Mandarin-lingo “Millionaire” will start on MediaCorp’s Channel 8 in August, also telecast twice a week. Inhouse unit MediaCorp Studios is producing both versions.

MediaCorp group CEO Ernest Wong and COO Farrell Meisel believe the Singapore-formatted “Millionaires” will prove the broadcaster’s edge over its rival in local production.

They point to the group’s formidable annual output of 1,900 hours of locally-made programming as something MediaWorks can’t hope to match, bolstered by MediaCorp’s output deals with Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount and Disney, as well as close relationships with DreamWorks and CBS Prods.

Meisel, an American TV exec, joined MediaCorp Feb. 12 after helping to develop cable and terrestrial TV businesses in Germany, the U.K., Russia and Turkey.

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Posted: Tue., Jun. 19, 2001, 3:30pm PT (Daily Variety)

Webs slug it out

MediaCorp fights off newcomer Media Works

By MAGZ OZBORNE

SINGAPORE — The terrestrial TV battle is heating up, with the old guard and upstart broadcasters both claiming they are winning auds.Incumbent MediaCorp reckons it is holding its own against recently launched MediaWorks, the broadcast arm of publishing giant Singapore Press Holdings (SPH).

According to MediaCorp’s ratings from Taylor Nelson Sofres (TNS), its Chinese-lingo Channel 8 and the revamped City TV are doing well despite the threat from MediaWorks’ Channel U, which launched May 6.

“Channel 8 has maintained a 50%-55% audience share since U’s launch,” says Farrell Meisel, MediaCorp’s group chief operating officer.

He has every right to be confident. Channel U changed its sked to a format similar to Channel 8 after only one week on-air — an admission that its strategy isn’t working.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s quite unusual for a new broadcaster anywhere in the world to revamp so soon,” comments Meisel.

What auds want

Over at MediaWorks, which is using AC Nielsen to gather ratings, bosses claim the Channel U rejig is a consumer-friendly response to audience need.

“We have been gathering feedback and audience preferences from our viewers,” reads a statement from the station. “Upon serious consideration and discussion, we believe that making timely, decisive and judicious changes are vital in sharpening our competitiveness. These adjustments are in line with our vision to meet the needs and lifestyles of our viewers. Viewers can look forward to a variety of programs at timeslots that are accessible to them.”

The battle for English language viewers between MediaCorp’s Channel 5 and MediaWorks’ TVWorks has seen an even bigger victory for the incumbent, according to TNS figures.

TVWorks bowed May 20 with “Godzilla,” but the movie’s 4.7% aud share was its highest of the night. The $1 million musical “TV Land” averaged a dismal 1.6%, while MediaCorp’s Channel 5 never fell below 10% and peaked at over 18%.

Pulling out all the stops with David Copperfield’s “Tornado of Fire” and celebrity charity versions of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” Meisel sees the ratings as vindication of MediaCorp’s hard work.

The mood in Singapore Press Holdings’ many print titles has been celebratory, but if TNS’ figures are anything to go by, the newcomer has little to smile about.

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Posted: Wed., Dec. 30, 1992 (Daily Variety)

TBS-Russian TV set to bow Fri.

By VARIETY STAFF

Turner Broadcasting System confirmed yesterday that it will launch Russia’s first independent TV channel on Friday, as expected (Daily Variety, Nov. 23).TBS is partnered with the Moscow Independent Broadcasting Co. in the venture. Farrell Meisel, formerly VP of programming for indie WWOR-TV in New York, will serve as director of operations for TV6 Moscow.

The news was well received on Wall Street, with the stock initially gaining 1 .1% in value on the announcement, but settling down later with Turner shares closing down 75 cents at the end of the day to 22.