Ricky Ow, President, Turner Asia Pacific

Feature

In with the new

Pay-TV needs a fresh & sexy story - probably starting with not calling it pay-TV. In the first of a series tracking entertainment brands as they chase their tales, ContentAsia talks to Turner head Ricky Ow about mobile video, the IP grail, relevance, killing old thinking, and ditching pay-TV descriptions  


Turner has commissioned its first mobile-first video series in Asia, taking the regional organisation another step into a future built on relevance and engagement across all platforms. 

Now into his fourth year at the regional media business, Turner’s Asia Pacific president, Ricky Ow, says investment in originals has increased significantly compared to three years ago. 

He won’t put a dollar figure or even a percentage on the size of the rise. But he will say that there  is an outsize determination to own quality IP.  

“We want new IP and we want our IP to become stronger,” Ow insists.

The short-form mobile series is an hybrid cooking/lifestyle co-production. The pilot is in production. Details have not yet been released.  

The mobile-first shorts are part of an original production initiative that has two key drivers, Ow says. The first is Turner’s kids services and the second is a commitment to IP ownership.  

In the next 18 months, “there will be a significant increase in content that we are delivering to our channels and platforms,” he adds. 

This includes entertainment content for WarnerTV supported, for instance, by the production deal with Singapore-based mm2 Asia for five feature films.  

Wonder Boy
Wonder Boy, the first film released under the Turner-mm2 collaboration

Ow says the entertainment originals will “help Warner TV to become more relevant in the marketplace and will help us to grow in terms of reaching out to new and bigger audiences”. 

“We believe linear channels will continue and Turner channels are strong and well-curated and have a role, but we also believe they need updating to be more relevant to the consumer,” Ow says. 

The made-for-mobile short-form and the new film initiatives are two examples of Ow’s approach to investment in original content as an important component of Turner’s future business. 

“Experimental” is not a term Ow responds well to. “We don’t consider these to be experimental... We are very clear about what we are doing and all of the initiatives have revenue targets attached,” he says. 

Originals for each of the regions – including India, where Turner operates Pogo and Japan – are customised, continuing the shift from regional to sub-regional. 

“We’ve always customised for different regions, but this is the first time we have been so co-ordinated,” Ow says.  

He insists were are in a golden age of original production. But it’s one not without challenges. The biggest of these are  sustaining growth and attracting new audiences. 

“How do we sustain this growth? We need to come up with good ideas and investment, to be innovative. And secondly we need to keep working to get new audiences so that we can expand and keep the momentum”. 

Channels remain a core part of the business, driving the bulk of current profit and revenue. The killer difference in today’s environment is the shift to skinny bundles. 

“We are positioning to be in the skinny bundle,” Ow says, emphasising the investment being made “to make sure channels are relevant” and worthy of their place in pared-down packs. 

At the same time, originals allow Turner to own all rights and “allow us to look beyond” to, for instance, distribution across every platforms and, beyond that, to manage each piece of content as a franchise. 

“Besides the revenue from syndication, it’s important to look beyond. We need to look at each piece of content as IP. And then decide how we manage that franchise in an overall environment where people can watch so many things in so many places. We have to be relevant across all platforms.” 

And stay true to an expanded slate that runs from kids, which involves multi-element franchise management, to Korean, where the cycle is much faster and everyone wants it right now. “We need to have different approaches,” Ow says. 

There’s also the investment in Vietnamese online platform POPS Worldwide, which gives Turner direct-to-consumer access and insights. 

“The old thinking is that you want to keep everything in one place. The new thinking is ‘how do you make your content exciting and relevant by building a 360 proposition around it’.”

In 2016, Turner recorded 1.7 billion touch points in Asia Pacific across TV, online, apps, Facebook and YouTube. “We no longer measure ourselves by ratings,” he says, adding: -”Today we measure ourselves by touchpoints”. 

Ow no longer describes Turner as a pay-TV business. In his own words: “We are about consumers and content and getting those joined together.”