Asiya Bakht
Jul 26, 2010

Profile: CNBC's Satpal Brainch on expanding in Asia

President and managing director at CNBC Asia-Pacific Satpal Brainch is one of Asia’s youngest media bosses.

Profile: CNBC's Satpal Brainch on expanding in Asia

The most obviously striking thing about Satpal Brainch, the president and managing director of CNBC Asia-Pacific, is his age. At 32 years old, Brainch must be one of Asia's youngest media company bosses.

He likes to attribute this precocious success to "a combination of being presented with the right opportunities, working hard, delivering results and having great mentors along the way." Of course, it helps when those mentors include CNBC's president Mark Hoffman and Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal.

Brainch took on the Asia-Pacific role from Jeremy Pink in June 2009. A finance and marketing graduate, Brainch worked for six years in finance roles at GE, where he was first exposed to the media world - working on the NBC/Universal integration process in 2004. Immediately prior to arriving at CNBC Asia-Pacific, he was the broadcaster's chief financial officer based out of New York.

Given his lack of direct exposure to the pay-TV sector in Asia, as well as his finance background, Brainch's appointment took many by surprise. His predecessor, for example, was from a solid programming background and had several years of experience working in television in Asia before he took on the CEO role.

Brainch says that he doesn't consider himself an outsider to the pay-TV industry and sees his finance background as helpful in his current role. "As CFO you're involved in all aspects of the business," he says. "That background has allowed me to ask comprehensive questions about all aspects of a deal as we're going through the negotiating process."

Even so, sources in broadcast industry circles point out that although he has been in the role for more than 12 months, many have yet to meet him. This is of little concern to Brainch. "My focus is largely on doing the best thing for CNBC and continuing to find ways to grow the business."

Those that do know him, however, point to an astute operator. Sai Kumar, group COO of Network 18, which is CNBC's Indian partner, says that Brainch's leadership "has been exemplary, right from the outset.

"He has a deep understanding of the strategic importance of the region and its potential, a strong commitment to partner relationships and a strong vision for taking CNBC Asia-Pacific to the next level of growth," Kumar says. "His mark is visible across the board, from deploying high performance talent, to helping to develop new revenue opportunities in emerging markets like India."

Even without taking into consideration the fact that Brainch arrived in Asia in the middle of a global recession, his performance, so far, has been impressive. "Our monthly reach has grown 30 per cent year-on-year and viewers spend more time watching CNBC than any other regional news channel," he says. "Our performance has never been stronger."

Brainch puts much of this success down to the people surrounding him. "I have been lucky to inherit an extremely strong and capable team who share my passion for the brand," he adds.

Equally important have been the broadcast partnerships he has been busy developing in several Asian markets. In January this year, CNBC teamed up with Korea's largest media company SBS with the launch of SBS-CNBC. Similarly, Brainch announced last month that CNBC would begin providing business content, including international market analysis and financial news updates, for China's state-owned broadcaster CCTV.

According to Brainch, such ventures are part of the overall focus for the company, which he says has been investing in its core product. "That was true when we launched SBS-CNBC in Korea, true when we announced the addition of Bernie Lo as anchor based in our Hong Kong studio and certainly true with the launch of our new studio at the Singapore Exchange. When we get past these first few months, our focus will remain investing in our core product, so that we continue to deliver our viewers with quality content they can use."

Another rationale of such partnerships is the number of additional viewers they bring. The SBS-CNBC channel will add roughly seven million viewers to the company's global audience, while Brainch estimates the CNBC presence in China will extend its reach into a potential 400 million homes.

But while building regional partnerships have always been a big part of CNBC's expansion strategy, it has been 12 years since the company launched a stand-alone local feed anywhere in Asia. The last service was set up in 1999 when CNBC Asia merged its Japanese satellite service with the television news service of leading Japanese daily newspaper Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

Nevertheless, Brainch still believes locally relevant content is crucial to expanding the broadcaster's footprint in Asia. "One of the strengths of CNBC is being able to tell a global story with a clear understanding of the local impact, and vice-versa," he says. "This local relevance remains a priority for CNBC."

Another priority is for CNBC to assume leadership in the digital space. CNBC has been active in digital for some time with online products such as CNBC.com, CNBC Plus and its mobile offerings.

"My focus is on how to make sure our digital content continues to be something that our viewers want to consume," he says. "Ultimately, CNBC is in the content business and we'll continue to deliver or distribute that content however our consumers want."

Satpal Brainch's CV
2009
President and managing director, CNBC Asia-Pacific
2007-2009 Senior vice president and chief financial officer, CNBC
2006-2007 Vice president, financial planning and analysis, NBC Universal Television Group

 

This article was originally published in the 15 July 2010 issue of Media.

Source:
Campaign Asia

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