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Friday, Sep 29, 2023




Staff Reporter

When Indonesians turn on their television sets and catch a Jackie Chan movie or a Latin soap opera, they have a Sherman Oaks company to thank.

Indo-American Entertainment Inc. acquires broadcast rights for movies, documentaries, TV series and other programs and then resells those rights to two of the three largest TV stations in Indonesia.

This specialized venture has proven to be extremely lucrative bringing in revenues of more than $53 million in 1996, according to company founder Neil Persky, a New York native.

Not bad for a person who, less than a year before he founded Indo-American, had never stepped foot on Indonesian soil.

Persky chalks up his move into Indonesian TV programming to “one of those seize-the-moment opportunities.”

That moment came when he was working as director of finance at a post-production company in New York. Peter Gontha, an Indonesian businessman who was launching a television station in his country (at the time the country had only one government-run station), visited the New York company in 1987, looking to acquire post-production services.

When Persky later visited Gontha in Indonesia on behalf of his employer, both men realized that post-production services were not what Gontha’s fledgling station needed.

Instead, Persky suggested that he acquire programming rights for various productions on behalf of Gontha’s station, Rajawali Citra Televisi Indonesia.

Gontha agreed, and “based on nothing more than a handshake,” Persky said he quit his job and drove from New York to L.A. to set up shop. With Gontha’s financial backing, Persky founded Indo-American and began to acquire rights for programming to be aired on RCTI.

Indo-American brought in revenues of $2.6 million in its first year based on the popularity of American shows like “MacGyver,” along with Jean Claude van Damme movies. “Indonesians love American action movies,” said Persky.

As it turns out, though, most Indonesians generally aren’t interested in watching an American TV series they would rather see locally produced programs.

In 1990, Gontha added another station, SCTV, for which Indo-American also acquires broadcast rights to programming. In fact, the fare provided by Indo-American makes up about 50 percent of each of the two stations’ programming. (The company ships videotapes of the programs to Indonesia via an Indonesian airline three times each week.)

By 1992, Indo-American’s annual revenues had climbed to $30 million, due in large part to Gontha’s addition of the second station and the considerable growth in the number of Indonesian viewers, said Persky.

And Indonesian television is still in its infancy, with a lot of room for growth, said Persky.

There are still only five TV stations in a country of almost 200 million people, and televisions are present in 81 percent of the homes. The country has no cable systems all of the existing stations’ programming is free-to-air.

“There’s huge potential in Indonesia once they begin their own cable system,” said Debbie Slavkin, vice president of international sales for Unapix International, a Sherman Oaks television production company that sells broadcasting rights to some of its productions to Indo-American.

Slavkin predicts that Indonesia will eventually follow the lead of other Asian markets, significantly increasing the demand for additional programming.

“The Asian market for the last four or five years has really grown mostly because of the development of cable TV in Asia and the expansion of the broadcast day from two-to-three hours a day to six-to-eight hours a day,” she said. “The way it has unfolded in other Asian countries, could also happen in Indonesia we’re just waiting for cable to hit Indonesia.”

Indonesians will soon see an expansion of their TV programming choices and Indo-American will likely see an expansion of its business. Indovision, a company controlled by Gontha and the Indonesian president’s son, is planning to launch a 19-channel, direct-to-home satellite TV service in June. Persky says that his company will supply programming to Indovision.

But Persky says he’s not ready to stop there. Given the difficulty of expanding the core business outside of Indonesia (stations in other countries generally have their own programming relationships), Persky has set his sights on the education market in Indonesia.

Persky says Indonesia’s minister of education is preparing an agreement for a pilot program under which Indo-American would produce videotapes of school lessons that would be broadcast to classes simultaneously via satellite.

Indo-American also has moved into producing its own programs for Indonesian television. To date, the company has produced a series of six half-hour shows about a Muslim holiday.

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