Angelos Frangopoulos (on screen) with Parry Ravindranathan (left), Sompan Charumilinda (right middle) and Adam Najberg
CEO of the Australian News Channel Angelos Frangopoulos has told a conference in Hong Kong how the broadcaster has “ripped the costs” out of its broadcasting operations by having journalists cut their own stories and employing a minimal number of editors.
“We don’t have many editors. Journalists cut their own stories and operate the studio control rooms,” Frangopoulos told the room. “It looks like a traditional broadcast studio, but we’ve the ripped costs out of it. Every single person we employ has to be journalist or a content maker of some kind. This approach is the equaliser against the startups.”
The news boss made the comments at a session at the CASBAA pay-TV conference yesterday, in Hong Kong, on how the creators of the 24-hour news cycle – rolling news channels – can maintain their edge in the age of “always now”.
Frangopoulos said that opinion was his network’s most effective way of holding an audience.
“The key thing is audience,” Frangopoulos, “If you step away from being a news channel, you need to realise that the biggest driver is quality content. We’d identified opinion as a massive driver. Opinion-based shows are our biggest shows. They deliver the numbers, and with the numbers comes revenue.”
In answer to a question from panel moderator Adam Najberg, the Wall Street Journal Asia’s digital editor, on the value of live news, Frangopoulos said: “Our business is about live, but what’s the residual value of news? That’s a good question. That’s why we’ve gone down the opinion road.”
At the event, Frangopoulos formally announced the launch of an over-the-top (available on the internet) service to reach Australian audiences living in Asia. Called Australian News Channel, it will be programmed with content from Sky News Australia. The move comes shortly after the closure of the ABC’s Australia Network after the Federal Government withdrew funding.
“Our business model is challenged,” Frangopoulos said. “The problem in Australia is that there is a relatively low penetration of pay-TV, although Foxtel [an Australian pay-TV firm] has recently rolled out a new pricing model that we think will turbo charge connections.”
On how traditional news players are responding to “disruptive technology” and the rise of independent news outfits such as Vice, Frangopoulos said that his operation echoes the lean approach of the newer players.
“Going guerilla” is to become mainstream, Najberg reflected, before asking a panel that included Bloomberg Asia MD Parry Ravindranathan and Thai News Network boss Sompan Charumilinda about their commercial strategies.
“My is job to deliver profit,” Frangopoulos added. “I can put my content out on all of our platforms, but fundamentally you have to be careful about putting stuff out there for distribution without monetising it or you risk killing the golden goose. Live video should only go on a paying platform. Subscribers need to know that content has value.”
On the importance of the localisation of news, Frangopoulos said that while his channel uses some content from regional news providers such as CNN, the channel aims to be “100 per cent Australian.”
“I think it’s got to be all local. We’re unashamedly an Australian news channel. We operate hyper local services covering cities such as Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Localisation is key. We can’t compete with CNN on foreign news. Yes, we’ll take feeds and cover those stories, but we’ll always cover them from a local perspective.”
Robin Hicks in Hong Kong