For her eyes only?

For her eyes only?
Too Ugly For Love (above) on Eve focuses on people with afflictions looking for love and rebuilding confidence, while Downton Abbey (below) on Diva is an award-winning series about an aristocratic family and their servants.

Women should be so offended.

Some cable television channels are marketed at them, then proceed to offer cheesy telemovies and mindless reality series.

In fact, having TV entertainment channels specifically geared towards women at all in this day and age could be seen as a step back in feminism. The fluffy, light-hearted fare and trashy shows do not help.

But there is a clear audience for such channels in Singapore: Several have launched here over the past few years. These are English- language channels clearly marketed to women in terms of their branding as well as slate of programming that is, so-called, "skewed towards females".

They include the channels Star World, which has been around since the mid-1990s, but changed its direction in 2010, and Sony Channel (formerly Sony Entertainment Television), which started in 2007.

There is also Diva (formerly Diva Universal), which was launched in 2010, and Lifetime, which started in 2013. The first factual entertainment channel dedicated to women, channel Eve, was launched by Discovery Networks in August last year.

From the TV networks' standpoint, it makes sense to package their channels this way for more targeted advertising.

Ms Christine Fellowes, managing director of Universal Networks International, Asia-Pacific, which runs Diva, says: "Women viewers have been the biggest audience for primetime broadcast. Diva not only appeals and speaks to its core female viewers, but also presents itself as a highly attractive TV destination for brands and affiliates who wish to target this highly coveted demographic."

The channels declined to reveal ratings and other figures, but Ms Fellowes says viewership for Diva has been "increasing across the region".

Data from market research firm Kantar Media showed that in Singapore, the average number of viewers watching Diva during primetime from January to June last year increased by 76 per cent among women aged 20 to 44, compared with the same period a year before.

Stereotyped or not, women are liking what they see, as some of them tell Life!.

Marketing executive Chin Pui Ting, 28, who regularly watches programmes on Diva (StarHub TV Channel 513) and Star World (StarHub TV Channel 501 and SingTel mio TV Channel 301), does not see why there needs to be a fuss over whether the channels are "sexist".

She points out that if anyone feels strongly against them, "then change the channel". "I happen to like watching some of the shows on these channels, but if I don't like any of them, I can always turn them off.

"It doesn't really matter if they are seen as marketed to women or not - it's about whether I am a fan of the shows."

Nanyang Technological University assistant professor Liew Kai Khiun, who has research interests in pop culture, believes "such channels with more niche programming are welcome" as they provide information and discussions that certain groups can identify with more meaningfully. He adds that there are also niche channels such as those geared towards ethnic minorities in other countries.

However, he questions the considerations and criteria of the content featured on these channels. He says: "Unlike ethnic minority stations, where benchmarks are often based on more visible markers of race and language, it seems more complex for the category of women. "The difficulty in women-centric TV channels is the understanding of what constitutes the preferences, viewing habits and pleasures of women."

The channels claim to know what makes women tick.

Spokesmen for Lifetime (StarHub TV Channel 514), Diva and Eve (StarHub TV Channel 425) say the channels have been conducting research on female audiences across Singapore regularly, using surveys or focus groups to better understand the types of shows they enjoy watching.

The Lifetime and Sony Channel spokesmen add that there is a large number of women working in their offices, so they can get first- hand insight into female viewing habits.

Ms Theresa Ong, senior vice-president and general manager (South-east Asia) at Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, which runs Eve, says "care has been taken to not perpetuate gender stereotypes".

"The topics on Eve are not unique to women. Rather, they are told from a woman's perspective to better connect with the female audience," she explains.

"For example, Women Of Homicide puts the spotlight on women in law enforcement, a traditionally maledominated field. Long Island Medium and Pawn Queens are about successful entrepreneurs who happen to be women, and Too Ugly For Love deals with relationship struggles and overcoming barriers, which viewers, regardless of gender, can identify with."

Moreover, the channels are quick to point out that their programming, on top of arguably more frivolous content such as cheesy telemovies and reality series, includes many quality shows featuring strong female lead roles as well.

The spokesman for Fox International Channels, which runs Star World, says: "We keep a lookout for programmes with strong and charismatic female protagonists and characters who embody the values of the modern woman, who is independent, smart, sophisticated and, most of all, confident."

In Star World's line-up are dramas such as Scandal, which stars Kerry Washington as a smart and powerful public relations boss, and Once Upon A Time, which reinvents classic fairy tales and has Ginnifer Goodwin in the lead as a confident Snow White who is far from just a damsel in distress.

Of course, none of the "womencentric" channels excludes men in any way, they add.

Ms Wong Yan Jong, vice-president of programming for English content at Sony Pictures Television Networks, Asia, which runs Sony Channel, says: "In various focus group studies conducted by a local market research firm last year, we found that male viewers both recognise and actually enjoy watching Sony Channel."

Ms Fellowes adds that Diva's shows are "selected with co-viewing in mind" and that "like women, men are also drawn to the intricate plots and intriguing characters" featured in its shows, such as Downton Abbey and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Mr Anson Low, 36, a real estate agent who watches How To Get Away With Murder on Sony Channel and Orphan Black on Lifetime, says: "I watch these shows because they are engaging. Does it matter if they are on channels that are supposedly targeted at women?"

yipwy@sph.com.sg

Follow Yip Wai Yee on Twitter @STyipwaiyee


This article was first published on Jan 8, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.