It’s all in the MYX.

There are music videos of artists little known outside of Asia. There are interviews with Bay Area Asian DJs. There’s animation featuring Asian characters. And it all adds up to MYX, a satellite TV channel that recently launched on DirecTV.

With offices in Redwood Shores and the Philippines, MYX is the latest attempt to tailor programming, primarily in English, to a growing Asian-American audience. But MYX faces a formidable challenge: It must succeed where some similar TV ventures have failed.

“We want to unite and unify the culture of a minority group,” says Jeff Nasalga, a MYX programming executive. “We are giving recognition to what their music stands for, giving the people what they want and giving aspiring artists (an) opportunity.”

MYX’s advantage may be its business model, says Raffy Lopez, chief operating officer of parent company ABS-CBN Global. Its model mostly relies on a subscriber base that already exists, rather than on advertising that has proved difficult to find.

ABS-CBN, a Filipino firm, has 140,000 U.S. subscribers, 35,000 of whom are in the Bay Area, for a package of satellite channels that now includes MYX. Ideally, other viewers will pay a separate fee for it in the near future.

Marketing plans call for heavily promoting the channel to college audiences, as well as through online social networks.

Another channel with a similar strategy is AZN on Comcast cable systems. AZN targets Asian-Americans of all generations with programming that’s mostly in English or has English subtitles. The channel is part of subscriber packages for markets that include Los Angeles, Boston and the Bay Area, which have large Asian-American populations.

By contrast, a dependence on advertising helped kill two San Francisco Asian-American TV shows, “Pacific Fusion” on KRON (Ch.4) and “Stir TV” (later called “Nightshift”) on KTSF (Ch.26).

“(The station) could make more money with infomercials,” says Pete Mar, a “Nightshift” host. The tightly budgeted show ran on Saturdays at midnight, competing against “Saturday Night Live” among other programs, and, Mar says, “it was basically really tough to sell.”

Multicultural marketing has become more sophisticated, but Asian-Americans are often an afterthought – third in the “pecking order” by population size at about 14 million nationally, behind Latinos and African-Americans, says Saul Gitlin, executive vice president of strategic services at Kang & Lee Advertising, one of the nation’s top Asian-American marketing firms.

“We often refer to our own industry as the stepchildren of multicultural marketing,” Gitlin says.

Starting June 15, DirecTV customers without the MYX package will be able to buy it as an individual channel for $4.99 per month. But industry sources say that young audiences in particular are reluctant to pay extra for new programming, a factor that may have undermined MTV’s Asian-American channels – Chi (Chinese), K (Korean) and Desi (Indian). The channels went off the air but remain online.

Another major challenge is more cultural than economic: It’s difficult to craft a single marketing message that applies to all of the multiethnic Asian-American population.

Asian-American “is a term that people will use when they apply to college, but I think the jury is out on what an Asian-American self-identity is, and more importantly, whether it is relevant when it comes to personal media consumption,” says Gitlin, whose agency has advised companies such as MTV, Bank of America and the National Basketball Association.

For example, Gitlin says, “Korean soap operas are taking the world by storm, so maybe a lot of people want to watch Korean soap operas, but whether you have a predisposition to watch Vietnamese programming because you are from the continent of Asia, I don’t know.”

Galvanizing Asian-American viewership is “going to require a great deal of money – sick amounts of funding – and most of the big companies like Viacom (which owns MTV) … are not committed enough and haven’t seen the potential,” says Michael Hong, chief executive of ImaginAsian Entertainment in New York. ImaginAsian creates Asian-themed programming for TV, radio, theater and film. Its cable channel reaches 5.3 million U.S households, including about 250,000 in San Francisco.

It has been a long programming road, says Jan Yanehiro, one of the first Asian-American hosts on TV with “Evening Magazine” on KPIX (Ch.5), which started in 1976.

“I was hoping there was going to be more of a boom by now, because I see a boom in Latino markets,” Yanehiro says. “I think there’s a need, I think we have a place, but we need support.”


Contact Marian Liu at mliu@mercurynews.com or (408) 920-2740. Fax (408) 271-3786. Read her music blog at http://www.mercextra.com/mliu.