World: Medium of the week - Walt Disney Television targets Asia's pre-schoolers

Lack of audience data and coverage may limit Disney's venture. Side-stepping any polemics about the ethics of advertising to children, the Mouse has set its sights on the potentially lucrative, if under-served, market segment of three- to five-year-olds in Asia.

Walt Disney Television International (Asia-Pacific), the regional TV arm of the entertainment giant, last month launched its 24-hour Playhouse Disney Channel in Indonesia and Hong Kong. The pay-TV channel is also slated to hit Singapore TV screens soon.

The launches are part of a regional roll-out of Asia-Pacific's first dedicated pre-school learning channel. Unlike in the West, there is little debate in the region about the ethics of targeting children, so the channels are likely to encounter little public opposition.

Why 24 hours? "Besides children two to five years old, the channel is also for parents and caregivers of pre-schoolers who may only have time to watch after the primetime viewing for pre-schoolers has passed," Raymund Miranda, the vice-president and managing director of Walt Disney Television International (Southeast Asia/Korea), explains.

Indonesia and Hong Kong are the fourth and fifth markets to receive the commercial-free channel after the UK, Spain and France. The company plans to extend the distribution of Playhouse Disney across Southeast Asia and Korea.

Disney claims the new channel features "award-winning pre-school programmes, locally produced hosted-activity segments and customised short-form programming that engages and stimulates pre-schoolers' imagination and learning in a seamlessly fun and creative environment".

The channel is available on Indonesia's leading pay-TV operator, Kabelvision, which serves around 110,000 households in the country's two largest cities, Jakarta and Surabaya, as well as the island of Bali.

Miranda says there is "a lot of room for growth with regards to potential viewers" but admits that there remains no available data on how many of these subscribers have pre-school children.

"Indonesia is a market with great potential, with its cable-penetration level still far from saturation point. It also has the fourth-highest birth rate in Southeast Asia, which signifies a huge audience for a service such as Playhouse Disney Channel," he adds.

Media agencies agree that little attention has been paid to pre-schoolers in Asia but speculate that the new channel may have limited reach because subscription-TV penetration rates remain so modest in Asia.

"The new channel will be interesting if it has wide coverage and good programmes. But it will only appear on cable. What's more, the coverage is small and skewed towards the upper classes in the urban areas," Amir Suherlan, the media manager of MindShare Indonesia, says.

As such, the channel is "not a big opportunity for brands", he adds.

Disney Playhouse is likely to be similarly hamstrung by small audience numbers in Hong Kong as well. The new channel and its sister channel, Disney Channel, are available on Hong Kong's "now Broadband TV", which transmits via broadband networks connected to TV sets. Now Broadband TV has a subscriber base of 240,000. But not all consumers connected to now Broadband will see the channels, because they can choose which channels they receive.

Channel: Playhouse Disney

Sole owner: Disney

Transmission: 24 hours a day, seven days a week

Audience: 110,000 subscribers in Indonesia and out of 240,000 in Hong


Revenue: Subscriptions

Competing channels: Standalone programming for pre-schoolers on other

cable and free-to-air TV

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