Fast forward to February 2005, and poor viewer numbers corresponded to, if not prompted, a steady decline in advertising revenue from the initial launch levels.
But Media Prima, the company behind successful channels such as TV3, ntv7 and 8TV, stepped in. Its next move though took the industry by surprise, when it promptly took Channel 9 off the air. After a lengthy period, however, it is back as TV9, with a new proposition, a new strategy and new content.
Media Prima chiefs have made sure TV9 has a clearly defined positioning this time, a necessity which ultimately took 12 months to develop and refine: 'Dekat di hati', which translates into 'Close to your heart'. In contrast, when Channel 9 first launched, it was a broad-based tri-lingual offering, which did little to enhance its appeal in the geographic areas it aired.
TV9 has been reborn as a semi-urban brand, playing to the more conservative lifestyles of its target demographic in rapidly developing second-tier markets outside Kuala Lumpur. TV9 has become a Malaysian-language channel, in recognition of the overwhelming Malay population, which accounts for about 70 per cent of the viewing public. It is a strategic move which Media Prima hopes will leverage the interest that advertisers are showing in capitalising on the geographic and demographic growth explosion.
Integrating the channel into Media Prima's broader broadcast offering was also a challenge. Rather than duplicate the success of the company's flagship brand, TV3, chiefs decided to align the channel alongside, rather than in contrast to, TV3, betting the market was robust enough to support a second offering. TV3 is pitched at the urban Malaysian demographic which, by virtue of wider exposure to all forms of media, is edgy and more willing to experiment. TV9 is aimed at capturing a segment of the market through leveraging its new core attributes, which Media Prima executives hope will sit more comfortably with the semi-urban demographic, generally regarded as more conservative, both socially and religiously.
When it relaunched in April this year, TV9 boasted a reach of more than seven million consumers in peninsular Malaysia, covering the east coast states, Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, with more than 13 hours of programming during the afternoon and evening. Specifically targeting children, youths, teenagers and adults, the channel features programming which reflects wholesome, positive values.
TV9's content has been developed to reflect its new identity. Featuring a broad line-up of talk shows, lifestyle magazine shows, entertainment and action movies, it is TV9's Koran-recitation reality TV show which has soared since launch to become one of the channel's most successful programmes. Featuring contestants in an American Idol-style format, the programme has captivated a nation and, more importantly, generated buzz.
There's plenty of action when it comes to promoting the new channel as well, with a host of on-ground activities in the regions and markets that matter. Media Prima chiefs cite their learnings and the infrastructure developed during TV3's infancy as critical to ensuring the success of the events in educating potential viewers, ultimately creating and expanding a loyal audience base.
As part of the Media Prima stable, TV9 now has cross-selling opportunities for advertisers, courtesy of a centralised media sales department. TV9 also presents a more cost-effective opportunity for the smaller to mid-scale brands, which shy away from the expensive airtime on TV3, allowing Media Prima to maximise revenue from the upper and lower echelons of the advertising economy.