H.R. Shah knew exactly how to grow TV Asia when he acquired the Edison-based station in 1997: Develop programming subscribers would pay for.
News, public affairs and talk shows geared toward connecting the South Asian-American community to what's happening around the world and with each other helped make TV Asia North America's premier South Asian network.
And it only made sense to do it in New Jersey.
According to the 2012 American Community Survey and the latest U.S. Census, more than 200,000 New Jersey residents are of South Asian descent, with the majority being Indian-Americans.
With 32 percent of that population living in Middlesex County, TV Asia is able to source from a bilingual workforce to produce its world news broadcast in three different languages — English, Hindi and Guajarati.
Employees connected to the South Asian community — or those mainly with ties to India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — understand exactly what their audience is looking for and how to properly evolve TV Asia's programming into what its 300,000 (and growing) subscribers want.
But as TV Asia moves to its next goal — expanding its reach by becoming available to all on basic cable — it knows it needs to increase its coverage.
The network, which already has 22 news bureaus in the United States and freelancers around the globe, has plans to add six more bureaus in the U.S. and four in Canada.
The additions will help the network enhance its coverage to its ever-changing target audience.
“We have new immigrants whose tastes are different from those who have grown up here,” said Rohit Vyas, senior vice president and news director.
As the longest-serving Indian-American journalist in North America, Vyas said, he has had to evolve the news over three generations of South Asian-Americans.
“Whatever we give them in terms of news and public affairs has to be one up on everyone else and specially geared toward them — otherwise, they wouldn't watch us,” Vyas said.
“For instance, a lot of Indians are interested in the conflict in Gaza right now between Israel and Hamas because there is a huge Jewish-Indian population settled in Israel — there is real concern about how they are doing.”
To do that, Shah said, the station must alter some of its ways.
“We are trying to be a part of the basic package — free-to-air — which means we'd have to focus more on English programming,” he said.
That's a necessity if the premium channel is to become one paid for by the cable companies — rather than individual subscribers.
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THE BIZ IN BRIEF
Company: TV Asia
CEO: H.R. Shah
Revenue: Not disclosed — but the station said its subscription base has increased in each of the past 16 years.
Employees: 32 in Edison; 30 freelancers throughout the U.S.
One more thing: TV Asia’s coverage of cricket sporting events is available at nearly 60 colleges nationwide (including Rutgers University) on WatchESPN.com; Radio Asia is available on 103.3 FM and 1310 AM.