Malaysia Media Observations: Discovery Channel Everywhere; Interactive TV

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imageHad I thought ahead, I might’ve taken a picture of something media-related, but I actually tried to make a recent, two-week swing through Malaysia a real vacation: No thinking about anything work related. When I travel, my interests are primarily culinary, hence the picture of noodles, devoured at a hawker stall in Penang. Much to my chagrin, I wasn’t able to avoid media-related thoughts entirely:

The Discovery Channel is everywhere: I’d read that the Discovery Channel has an extraordinary international presence, at least 170 countries, with Malaysia being one of them. At each hotel we stayed at, channel lineups were pretty meager, but Discovery was always on the deck. In airport waiting lounges, TVs are frequently tuned to Discovery (NSDQ: DISAB). It makes sense, as it’s not language-heavy programming, the shows wouldn’t seem to lose much if you had to go by the subtitles alone. By the same token, I saw the National Geographic Channel more in Malaysia than I’ve ever seen it here.

Screen Media: Outdoor digital signage is a bigger deal in Asia, as firms like NASDAQ-traded Focus Media (NSDQ: FMCN) (which just announced that it’s spinning off its internet business) have emerged as advertising powerhouses… New York has its share of digital signs, but it’s clearly much more prevalent in Asia. If I had a complaint, it’s that some of the signs I saw (airports, other public areas) were so heavy on ads and so light on content that there isn’t much of a reason to pay attention. On the other hand, a captive audience without access to a remote control isn’t in much of a position to complain.

Interactive TV: It’s a good sign when you’re transfixed by something in another language, but I was truly hypnotized watching a Malay TV show of a live radio broadcast. It was the kind of live, in-studio programming you might’ve seen when Imus was on MSNBC, coupled with a an on-screen chat room that you could interact with via SMS. To top it off, a large chunk of the screen was just ads for mobile ringtones and wallpapers. Totally absorbing. (Of all the things, I wish I had a picture of this).

Internet: What can I say, but that it seems fairly advanced? The KL airport has better WiFi than JFK. Certain busy areas of the city are similarly unwired. The nice hotels had terrible, expensive internet — same as here. I also took it as a good sign that plenty of public computers I used (I did check my email here and there, I’ll admit) were loaded with Firefox as well as IE. One point tangentially related: AirAsia, that discount airline that I used to take some domestic trips, is the best cut-rate airline I’ve ever flown, with a really excellent, efficient web booking/check-in system. Supposedly, it has really advanced mobile ticketing, but didn’t get a chance to use it.

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Dennis Yang

Hi Joseph,

Welcome to Malaysia, my home town, in fact I am now at the KLIA airport and using the fast and free wi-fi to response to this article. The "interactive TV" you mentioned sounds like the midnight filler shows running on some national networks by simply playing latest music videos of international artists alongside with information of shortcut codes to ringtones and wallpaper downloads, each costs about USD1-2 per download. The mobile service provider splits the money with content owners, carriers and also with the TV networks and keep some for themselves.

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