This Singapore startup is building Asia’s first exchange to automate TV ad management.

AsiaMX wants to fix the TV industry with an algo-based ad platform for planning, booking, management and reporting.

By Lau Joon-Nie
Splice
The AsiaMX homepage. Looks good on a wooden table.
The AsiaMX homepage. Looks good on a wooden table.

For all the technology used in broadcasting to make the viewing experience bigger, better and sharper, one area remains surprisingly low-tech.

According to AsiaMX CEO Basil Chua, the world’s 76-year-old TV advertising industry is operating on a fundamentally inefficient and broken system.

Chua wants to crack what he sees as the industry’s root problem—a disconnect between buyers and sellersand make it quicker and easier to trade TV advertising inventory and available slots.

“Today, if you were to place an order, you would send a spreadsheet to your seller side, someone will print out the spreadsheet and key in [the data] into another system… It’s bizarre, because there’s no integration involved,” says Chua, a 25-year industry veteran who used to head cross-media sales for Singapore telco Starhub and has held various management positions around Asia at Fox International Channels, now Fox Networks Group.

“If you were an advertiser, you would not see a report until one month after your campaign is over. So, if you run a three-month or two-month campaign, you won’t see it till a month later. This is ridiculous.”

Frustration spurs new venture

Chua was frustrated by not having key data fast enough to make business decisions. Thus, AsiaMX was born in 2016 when he and co-founder Nick Chuah decided to create the region’s first programmatic TV advertising exchange.

Chuah, now chief commercial officer, used to head business development in APAC for ad-tech giant Ooyala.

Earlier, they raised a six-figure sum from angel investors and 10K Asia, the accelerator arm of Singapore venture capital firm Marvelstone, to build their algorithm-based platform, which optimises campaign planning, booking, management and reporting for advertisers, backed by audience measurement data. 

Subsequently, they raised another round from OMG Capital and MMXV Investments.

The Asia-Pacific TV advertising market could be worth $66.6 billion by 2020.

But is AsiaMX worried that audience fragmentation due to the rise of mobile and social media could kill off broadcast television?

“People don’t watch devices, they watch content,” Chua declares.

AsiaMX Chief Commercial Officer Nick Chuah (left) and CEO Basil Chua (right).
AsiaMX Chief Commercial Officer Nick Chuah (left) and CEO Basil Chua (right).

And he has reason to be optimistic.

PwC projections indicate the Asia-Pacific TV advertising market has been growing at a compound annual growth rate of 6.4 per cent since 2015 and could be worth $66.6 billion by 2020.

The figures include advertising on pay TV, online TV and terrestrial TV, excluding YouTube and Facebook videos.

And since 15- and 30-second commercial slots make up 80 percent of the television advertising industry’s budget, AsiaMX has pivoted away from its original plan to offer an integrated digital and TV programmatic exchange and focus solely on linear TV.

Chasing diverse markets

It currently offers more than $500 million worth of programmatic advertising assets—including premium prime-time, online video and mobileon behalf of leading pay TV and free-to-air broadcasters.

Among them are Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific (Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Eurosport and Setanta Sports), NBCUniversal International Networks (DIVA, E! and Universal Channel), A+E Networks Asia (History Channel, Crime & Investigation, Lifetime, FYI and H2), as well as Turner Asia-Pacific, which owns 61 channels, including the very popular Cartoon Network, CNN International and Warner TV.

AsiaMX’s first major foray into a country market was Thailand last November. The Thai deal gives Dentsu Aegis Network’s global clients the ability to target Thai audiences watching premium TV content on several channels.

And AsiaMX is now setting its sights on the highly fragmented yet lucrative Indonesian market, and is expected to come online by the end of this year.

The future, Chua feels, lies in cross-screen advertising.

Which begs the question, what about China? Chua says that while 90 percent of the processes are similar across countries, AsiaMX is carefully exploring the Chinese market. With more than 8,500 channels, China has its share of unique characteristics, such as the presence of media brokers who are not found elsewhere, and non-standard programme and commercial slot durations, which makes certain transactions trickier to automate.

In any case, the future, Chua feels, lies in cross-screen advertising.

“TV has evolved,” he says. “It’s not about the device on the wall. It’s about the content.”

Lau Joon-Nie

A​ ​lawyer​ ​by​ ​training,​ ​Lau​ ​Joon-Nie​ ​spent​ ​15​ ​years​ ​in​ ​television​ ​and​ ​online​ ​news​ ​before becoming​ ​a​ ​university​ ​lecturer.​ ​She​ ​is​ now a​ ​regular​ ​speaker​ ​and​ ​trainer​ ​at​ ​conferences, workshops​ ​and​ ​industry​ ​panels,​ ​where​ ​she’s​ ​often​ ​asked​ ​about​ ​digital​ ​disruption​ ​and whether​ ​she​ ​has​ ​any​ ​good​ ​students​ ​for​ ​hire.​ Follow Lau Joon-Nie on Twitter.

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