Fox Asia president Zubin Gandevia on staying relevant, streaming and why advertising on TV promotes brand safety

Fox Networks Group is confident that it can continue to stay relevant with audiences in APAC

As Netflix and HBO continue to draw eyeballs with their original programming series like Narcos and Game of Thrones in Asia Pacific, Fox Networks Group is confident that it can continue to stay relevant with audiences through innovation and a deep understanding of the region, as well as attract brands to continue advertising on its channels.

Speaking to The Drum, Zubin Gandevia, president of Fox Networks Group Asia asserts that even though the streaming space in APAC has become more competitive, Fox brands and products gives it an advantage that no other player can match.

He points to the fact that Fox has over two decades of experience in Asia and decades of experience in making original productions, which puts the company in an advantageous position of knowing and understanding what the evolving consumers wants and it is well positioned to offer the best entertainment experience to these consumers.

“We set ourselves apart by consolidating all of these offerings and presenting them in an on-demand format, so that our consumers can enjoy our shows anytime and anywhere,” he explains, adding that the company offers consumers the best content through Fox+, a new streaming service it launched earlier this year which includes programming from over 50 genres of programs from hit dramas, romantic comedy and epic action to lifestyle and inspiring nature documentaries to live sports from the biggest global sporting events.

The launch of Fox+ comes at a time when a survey reported by eMarketer found that 67% of internet users in the United States watch or have access to a streaming service, while just 61% have cable in their homes. It also found that 77% of millennials saying they have access to a streaming service, as compared to 65% of no millennials.

Explaining further on Fox+, which is already available in the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan, and will launch in Hong Kong in November, Gandevia says that the service was borne out of the fact that digital transformation has put the consumer in the driving seat as they want a seamless entertainment experience across devices that lets them watch anything they want, when they want, where they want.

“Fox+ is a thing of beauty – it gives consumers the opportunity to watch sports, the latest movies and series as well as back catalogues of shows like The Walking Dead, national Geographic, Chinese blockbusters wherever they want – at home on their widescreen TV or on the way to the work during their morning commute,” he adds.

Aside from launching a streaming service, Gandevia says Fox has also made major investments into new digital offerings across entertainment and sport, as well as into producing high quality content across APAC. “Our investments in Hollywood content continues to increase as we endeavor to bring the very best in movies, series and documentaries (through National Geographic) to our viewers on the same day and date as they are available in the United States.”

“Over the past year, we have also ramped up our investment in local productions – from localised National Geographic production in Taiwan to Asia’s Next Top Model across Asia. We have also made a step forward in our production of Chinese content which we are optimistic about and believe sets us up for the future as the best providers of entertainment no matter what you are looking for,” he adds.

Some of Fox’s Chinese content includes ‘Trading Floor’, the company’s first original miniseries in Asia, which is produced by Hong Kong singer-actor Andy Lau’s Focus Television, and crime thriller ‘Stained’, written and directed by Patrick Kon. Both are scheduled to be show on television in the first quarter of 2018.

As both series are aimed at audiences in the Chinese market, Gandevia reveals that this is part of Fox’s investment in China over the past couple of years, as he claims that the quality of content that is being made in China is ‘truly amazing’ and is often on a par with Hollywood. “Our viewers across Asia want the best content from the East and the West; and in particular, their appetite for top-quality Chinese content continues to grow. We see our role as facilitators – we bring great content from Hollywood to audiences across Asia Pacific and now we have the opportunity to do the same with Chinese content.”

The executive adds that Fox’s strategy for Chinese content revolves around taking inspiration and best practices from Hollywood production models, and leveraging renowned filmmakers and actors to produce leading Chinese content and investing in premium Chinese shows to showcase Asian content to the West.

As consumers are starting to watch TV across different devices at any given time, mobile is starting to become the go-to device for brands and advertisers because of cross-platform viewing. So how does Fox convince them to continue to put their ad dollars in broadcast?

Gandevia believes that the future of advertising, be it across broadcast or digital, is bright because it is no longer just about putting all of a campaign’s ad dollars into broadcast or digital, but it is starting to be more about understanding the delivery of content and putting brands at the heart of a great story. “Great storytelling is at the heart of our business, and we have the scale to bring the best value to each one of our advertisers,” he adds.

The former managing director for National Geographic Channel India also notes that viewership figures in Asia are fragmenting across devices and platforms, and the ad dollars that follow them are fragmenting along with it. He feels that while digital advertising may have reigned over the last few years, there is a rise in integrated, multi-channel strategies that reach consumers across every touch point.

“We advise clients and prospective advertisers that the consumers they are trying to reach are exposed to a huge number of channels each day thus it’s important to have a layered advertising plan that meets the consumer where they are and delivers the multiplier effect,” he says. “For example, a compelling campaign that translates from online to offline inclusive of a TV spot, bite sized digital content and experiential activation is likely to be more successful than single banner ad on a mobile device.”

With the rise of technology tools in digital advertising, brands and advertisers can know how many people their ad reached. However, there is still no digital signal to tell whether an ad has been viewed or not on TV.

Gandevia is not unduly worried by this however, and points to efforts across the industry to measure the impact of a broadcast ad. He insists that broadcast advertising is still an effective marketing channel because there is a rise in direct response metrics due to the second screen and that gross rating point as a measurement tool is still effective.

He also questioned the reliability and accuracy of digital marketing metrics when it comes to the tracking of attention and engagement of an ad, underlining the fraud and transparency issues that are current plaguing the ad industry. “Fraudulent bots can skew even the most common digital advertising metric – click through rate,” he says.

However, the executive was quick to add that neither broadcast nor digital should be standalone platforms for advertisers and that brands should be investing in integrated cross-channel communications plans to ensure they connect with their consumers on every level.

Looking ahead, Gandevia is excited about the future of TV as he stresses that Fox is constantly innovating and changing with its consumers, and finding innovative ways to curate and deliver the content they want. “The television industry is evolving and change is not something that anyone can opt out of – we must innovate and keep the consumer at the very heart of our thinking and product – if we do that we will continue to be successful.

“At Fox, we are aware of the demands from consumers, and we are well versed in adapting and staying relevant to our customers’ needs. Fox+ complements our thriving pay-TV business, and provides consumers with even more choice to consume great entertainment, backed by a seamless user experience.”

“With today’s disrupted environment, it makes absolute sense for us to embrace new technology and to provide consumers with more convenient methods of consuming content, and that is what we plan on doing as we continue to roll Fox+ out across Asia,” he adds.

In the last few months, The Drum has talked to various key figures in the media industry, including The Trade Desk, about the future of TV, as well as how advertisers should treat the platform going forward.

Shawn Lim

Shawn Lim is a reporter at The Drum, covering industry news around the Asia Pacific region with a focus on Singapore and Southeast Asia. Based in Singapore, he has worked across photography, video and online, covering a range of subjects including current affairs and sports.

Before Game of Thrones, he was a huge Breaking Bad fan. He does CrossFit and yoga to stay healthy.

All by Shawn