01 October 2018

A Year as a TV CEO


A Year as a TV CEO
By Johan Ishak

2 OCTOBER 2018: Exactly a year ago I reported for duty at Media Prima Television (TV) Networks (MPTN). It has been quite a roller coaster, and this interesting ride continues. Never had I imagine before that I would look after TV stations particularly TV3, the channel that made me wait every evening in the mid 80's for cool cartoons such as Transformers, Voltron, Mask, Thundercats, Jem and the Hologram and a Japanese drama, Oshin.

The task was never intended to be easy and it still poses me numerous challenges daily. From managing the content to making sure the transmission on air. From boosting the viewership to making the profit and loss black. From ensuring legal protection to embracing new digital technology. I feel as if many jobs have been moulded together into one consisting the roles of an accountant, sales person, content programmer, market researcher, tech practitioner, marketeer, advertiser, creative director, engineer, event organiser, lawyer and a journalist.

The learning curve is so steep so much so that if I go on leave even for a day, it feels like I have missed my university morning lectures, particularly Economics. With 4 TV Stations (TV3, 8TV, TV9 and ntv7), 1 Over-the-Top (OTT) platform (tonton.com.my), 1 on-line portal (xtra.com.my), 1 Home TV Network (CJ Wow Shop), 1,300 staff, 7 million TV households and 21 million TV viewers, I am sure anyone would feel as overwhelmed as I had (and still feeling it). 

TV3 continues to be the Number 1 TV station in the country at 30% of the mass Malay audience. 8TV also continues to be Number 1 Chinese TV station in the country at 30% of the mass Chinese audience. Together all 4 stations command 30% of the overall TV audience in Malaysia making it to be the most effective broadcasting network as far as advertising effectiveness is concerned. RM1 of each advertising spend can reach 30% of the market by just spreading it over 4 stations instead of over 200 plus other small stations that we compete with. On top of all this, tonton.com.my delivers all of our content to its 8.4 million registered users.

Democratisation of Content was on my agenda from the start. This is because we have awesome TV content such as the Akasia dramas, entertainment shows like Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL), kids' titles such as Ejen Ali , morning talk shows like Malaysia Hari Ini (MHI), women shows like Nona, documentaries like Majalah 3 and of course, our news slot like Buletin Utama. All these we have made it more accessable to viewers after the TV airing for free when our tonton.com.my stopped charging subscription fees to viewers from 1 September 2018 onwards. In addition, these content are being made available on You Tube.

Democratisation of Digital mindset has made us to continue to be relevant. Our viewership is no longer just on TV. As mentioned earlier, our OTT and You Tube presence is critical. This is flanked with a heightened effort to push content via social media particularly Facebook. This allows a very long and significant tail end subsequent to TV airing. For example, AJL32 recorded 3.8 million viewers on TV3 but later accumulated 24 million viewers on the internet. There are many examples that can be shared but this example provides good insights into how the two universe coexist. What is more compelling is that our advertisers can reach out to specific classes of targeted audience on these digital platforms via our own Artificial Intelligence (AI) called Audience+.

Democratisation of Advertising was the next item on my checklist. Many businesses in Malaysia that fuelled the Malaysian economy are Small and Medium Enterprises (SME). They (SMEs) have very limited financial resources to advertise on TV because TV is said to be expensive. After so many research efforts and spreadsheet number crunching to make sense of our TV microconomics, my team and I had restructured our pricing to arrive at a formula that works for both the SMEs as well as our profit and loss statement - and the result? Wallah! Behold the super affordable #JomMasukTV, where SMEs can explore by emailing queries to jommasuktv@mediaprima.com.my.

Democratisation of Journalism is something we have been able to enhance quite naturally. The basic rule, i.e. Journalism 101, is Impartiality. Our ability to explore news and current affairs from all perspectives puts us higher on the 'trust meter'. Whilst we have the strategy to report official Government policies and direction, such citizen-centric mindset has been energised to incorporate concerns from the public. We believe we have such tremendous obligation so much so that we have revitalised our citizen-centric show, Soal Jawab, into Soal Rakyat. As a result, our news slots gained 20% viewership this year particularly Buletin Utama. In the month of May 2018 alone, we have had 400 million views on TV for our news slots representing 17 million Malaysian population who viewed on average 23.5 times.

Democratisation of Shopping is embraced when anyone can buy goods from our TV shopping arm, CJ Wow Shop. It is simply Wow! Why? Within just two years of operation, we have hit one million buyers simultaneously making it a profitable business. For this, we are grateful to our business partner from South Korea, the CJ ENM Group. Our ground event, Karnival Jom Heboh, continue to record 450,000 visitors per weekend making it one of the most sought after event by both consumers as well as traders. Our overall creative direction won close to 30 awards from various marketing organisations and we even won Media Company of the Year for 2018 for South East Asia.

Democratisation of TV is my overall gameplan. There are many initiatives that have been put in motion but the above will suffice to demonstrate how we, at MPTN, have to be dynamic in our approach. We have many stakeholders but the 2 most crucial ones that provide oxygen to our blood are viewers and advertisers. We strive to address their every need. To do this, we are constantly looking for changes that benefit our stakeholders. In the end, the only constant that makes perfect sense in this digital era is Change itself. 

* kopihangtuah

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23 September 2018

Bapak Told Me to Visit the Blue Mosque


Bapak Told Me to Visit the Blue Mosque
By Johan Ishak

THE BLUE MOSQUE is a reference being made by many around me ever since my childhood. My father, a retired landscape architect and town planner, often cited those two words many times especially when he was managing the city planning for Shah Alam as the Director of Town Planning for the State of Selangor. I can still remember his telephone conversation that sounded something like this, "Tuanku Sultan (the late Sultan S
alahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah) wants to emulate the Blue Mosque of Istanbul here in Shah Alam. Please make it happen." Then he hung up the antique green marble rotary telephone.

I asked him, "What is the Blue Mosque?"

He said, "It is the most beautiful mosque in the world. Its real name is the Sultan Ahmet Mosque."

I asked again, "Is it painted in blue?"

He said, "No, no, ha ha ha, .... it is made of blue mountain rocks. However, even though the rocks are called blue mountain rocks, they are still grey. The mountain looks blue from afar, hence the 'blue mountain' rocks. But many people refer it as the Blue Mosque because the tiles inside on the walls and domes as well as the glasses for the windows are mostly in blue. One day you must go and see it. And when you do, pray on its carpet, because when that day comes, you will remember this conversation we had."

"Ok Bapak. But, where is Istanbul?"

"Ahah! it is in Turkey."

Today you can see the great blue mosque of Shah Alam called Masjid Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah that was inspired by the Istanbul Blue Mosque. Whoever it was on the other side of the phone with my father did his or her job well.

Also, today (literally), three and a half decades later, here I am, with my wife, walking the streets of Istanbul, the busiest city on this land the Turkish call Turkiye, for our very first time. A fantastic country known as the first site of human civilisation namely Mesopotamia that is/was nourished by the Euphrates and the Tigris rivers. This was the time when Prophet Ibrahim a.s. (Abraham) lived.

As we enjoyed our trip around Turkey, I made some mental notes of what I can retell to others who have never been to Turkey. Here are some of them:

1. Turkey is half Europe and half Asia. Istanbul is right in the middle of that boundary that is devided by the waterway that connects the Black Sea to Aegean Sea, north of the Mediterranean Sea. The Asian part of Turkey probably accounts for 90% of the country. It is what used to be known as Anatolia in the old days (Asia Minor). This meeting point between Asia and Europe makes perfect sense to be the big bang of human civilisation, i.e. Mesopotamia.

2. Turkey has the most magnificent ancient huge majestic rocky buildings for worshippers. The famous Blue Mosque, as mentioned earlier, is all what Bapak had described. I went in and sat on its carpet to pray and miraculously, I remembered my conversation with Bapak. The second building worth mentioning is the Ayasofya, the pink museum that used to be a mosque and also a church before that. Today you can see its inner walls of dome foundation bearing the Arabic characters for the words Allah s.w.t, Muhammad s.a.w., Abu Bakar As-Siddiq, Umar al-Khattab, Usman Affan, Ali Abi Thalib, Hassan Ali and Hussein Ali. In addition, there is also a painting of Maryam a.s. (Virgin Mary) carrying a baby, Isa a.s. (Jesus) on its inner walls of the dome. There are many more great buildings in Turkey but the additional ones worth visiting are Galata Tower, Topkapi Palace and Dolmabahce Palace.

3. Turkey has the most awkward looking naturally formed rocks. From Istanbul, we flew to Cappadocia, or, in the native tongue, Kapadokya, to see these rocks. This is right smack in the middle of the Anatolia bearing the climate of a desert - very cold at night and very hot during day time (in September). Anyways, those rocks, they are beyond my imagination of what rocks can look like. The locals say they look like chimneys. Some of my Facebook friends left comments on the uploaded photos saying they (the rocks) look like mushrooms. For me, hmmm..... , they actually look like penis, circumcised ones. The scenery becomes more interesting when many hot air balloons fly above those rocks at sunrise, daily.

4. Turkey has a very rich cultural aesthetic craft heritage that had survived thousands of years. Their carpets are so colourful yet luxurious almost making you feel like in a Sultan's harem. The mosaic colourful glass lamps have an effect of bringing you back in time during the era of the great Ottoman Empire. The little mystical blue ornament they call the Evil Eye simply reminds you of the historic events involving the surrounding empires such as Greek, Troy and Sparta.

5. Finally, the food. The Food! The food is full of wealth. The everflowing fresh orange and pomegranate juices. The freshly baked Turkish bread simply closes your eyes when eaten with kebabs (locally spelled as kebaps), yogurt and humus. The sweet desserts full of pistachios (eg. Baklavas) almost make you ask the question, "How would the Turks survive if they ran out of pistachios?" In short, you would simply rate them all as four stars and above.

So, there you go. My thoughts on Turkey. I hope others will get the chance to go to Turkey especially Istanbul. And if you happen to visit the Blue Mosque, sit on its soft carpet and pray. I am sure you will remember reading this account of my awesome time in Turkey.

* kopihangtuah

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