TV5MONDE Asia-Pacific Weathers COVID-19 Storm

Alexandre Muller, the managing director for the Asia Pacific at TV5MONDE, talks to World Screen about expanding the French-language broadcaster’s presence in the region.

Muller is feeling quite bullish about the French-language broadcaster’s prospects in the region. In the last year, the company has added some 7 million subs across AsiaPac to reach 115 million, with several deals closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in Thailand and Korea.

“Things are going pretty well in terms of traditional cable,” Muller says. “Revenue wise, there are some decreases; a big part of our revenues come from hotels. But still, we’re at 95 percent of revenues from last year. We can’t complain! I expected revenues to be down by one third, at least, but today we’re down by less than 5 percent.”

TV5MONDE operates two general-entertainment channels in the region, one for Asia and one for the Pacific, and one lifestyle service. Muller sees growth opportunities with pay-TV operators across the region, especially in the wake of the Disney-Fox merger and upcoming rollout of Disney+. “They removed one or two channels here and there, which was good news for me because financially speaking, that lifted a bit of the burden for the operators. The majors are trying to secure content for their own platforms, and therefore they are removing some content, leaving space on cable.”

TV5MONDE is also pursuing its own OTT strategy, revamping its service with a new look and new payment system this summer. Muller concedes that the OTT service won’t work everywhere. India, for example, with its extremely crowded OTT landscape, is a challenge. “There are billions of eyeballs. Not everyone has cable, but everyone has a mobile phone. Ninety-five percent of the content on OTT in India is local. The big players will take the remaining 5 percent. For us, we’re talking about a very low percentage. My service is a pay service, so India is not a market for me [on OTT]. If we launch an AVOD service, yes, there might be some market share to take.”

TV5MONDE does, however, have 75 million subs in India via pay-TV partnerships, and Muller expects continued expansion. “We’ve been consistent in our strategy and who we are targeting. And that works.”

There are opportunities elsewhere in the region, too, Muller says. “I have some great deals in the pipeline, including one in Japan. I’m pretty confident! We’re unique in the environment here and we’ve managed to bring the boat through sometimes difficult seas.”

Key to the company’s success has been its programming lineup, with a broad mix of scripted, docs, kids’ fare and sports to engage Francophones and Francophiles. “Fiction in general, movies and series, works great,” Muller says. “The way these stories are written in France is very different from storytelling in the U.S.”

Muller says that having a range of genres is also key to TV5MONDE’s success. “If you’re an American movie channel, you have six or seven alternatives on cable. If you’re a kids’ channel, it’s the same. The market is crowded. With English content, there is a lot of competition. When it comes to the content I’m providing, there isn’t much competition. If people are looking for something different, this is a place to go. It’s really about bringing something different to the table, and that’s what cable is about: diversity, choice and providing content that resonates with people.”

And while COVID-19, combined with broader shifts in the industry, is certainly putting pressure on operators and channels alike, Muller is feeling upbeat about the sector’s prospects. “We’ll be back on our feet in no time,” he says. “I think this industry will survive. And it’s a good time to innovate.”