The overhaul of ANTV dan tvOne made one Anindya Novyan Bakrie truly understand the pulse of the television electronic media business. Inheriting a company on the verge of bankruptcy like ANTV, did not deter this graduate of Stanford Gradtuate School of business, even though at the time he lacked the experience.

To fix ANTV and tvOne, he asked his two colleagues, Erick Thohir and Otis Hahyari, to become his business partners. These “Three Musketeers” came up with strategies to lift both TV stations from ruins. In a conversation with Warta Ekonomi journalists, Heri Lingga, Arift Hatta and Yosi Winosa, Anindya Bakrie or Anin- as he’s widely known – stated his business strategis. Below are the snippets of the interview

What did you inject to ANTV so that it is able to become the highest rated TV station?

Using the analogy of an athlete, we are a long distance runner, a marathon athlete. As we can see, population-based business or Indonesian domestic consumption must be long lasting. Therefore, we have chosen to be to be a marathon athlete in this field. Well, more than just marathon, but triathlon because we also swim and run. That is an interesting analogy.

I started managing ANTV since 2001, since I came back from Stanford Business School. At the time I was 27 years old. Previously, I had worked in Wall Street, but I came back and made a deal with the family. I was asked to choose a company that wasn’t doing well, bankrupt even, and if I wanted to run the company, the family would not interfere. At the time, there were a number of our companies that were going bankrupt, because it was right after a crisis, so I just had to choose which one I wanted. At the end, I chose ANTV.

ANTV got into the Suspension of Debt Payment Obligation (PKPU) program. We got into bankruptcy protection. So, after only a week in ANTV, I was already in court, in PKPU. There, we conveyed to all the stakeholders about our condition. You couldn’t hope for too much, but if converted, the debt could be the shareholders’ equity. If this worked, then the share value would be high. Maybe we would have the ability to buy again. That’s what happened. ANTV started with a very difficult condition after the 1997 crisis. In 2001, it could be said that we had an internal take over. After that, we went to PKPU to talk about postponing debt payments. From then on, the ship was able to float, but it didn’t have enough fuel to sail.

After you managed to convince the creditors not to file for bankruptcy, what did you do to make sure that ANTV could live on?

The problem was only how we were going to pay employee salaries, how to fund the programs, the frequency and also the satellite. There were many steps taken to ensure that the company survived. I had to be honest, I had no experience whatsoever at the time. At the end, we tried to partner with Rupert Murdoch’s TV network Star TV, because Rupert Murdoch is proven to be unbeatable. But, our field work indicated that the taste of Indonesian public was not the same as the international public. If the program comes from overseas, it has to be localized. At the end, after we were able to stay running, we bought back the shares and we develop them so they could be more flexible. Along with the ability to seize opportunity, at the end funding started coming and trust started to grow.

Did you leave the telecommunication business because you know that the television business would develop?

In the last four to five years, we have improved ANTV to get to where it is today. Why have I worked so hard in these past five years? Because at the time I made the decision that I didn’t want to be in the mainstream telecommunication business like Bakrie Telcom (B-Tel). At the end, our frequency asset was sold to Sinarmas group because they wanted to delve into the market. We let it go because the business had a high capital expenditure and not so much creativity.

We want to talk to the other kind of business, with low capital expenditure, and high profit and creativity. The capital is in our brain, but it’s not easy to manage human resources. We created human resources again, until it managed to be successful and thriving like today. But, we do not dare state that we are a smart player, in five years we could make it or break it, we are just runners.

When the ANTV wheel started to turn for the better, you already acquired another TV station (Lativi). Can you explain why?

Yes, when we took over Lativi, ANTV’s condition was not at its prime. Especially, Lativi condition at the time was also not very good. When we acquired it, they had a bad debt at Bank Mandiri. So at the time we were risk takers hahahaha…

At the time, what did you do with the two TV stations that were not performing well?

Firstly of course we thought about where we wanted to take the business to, because there were so many entertainment television stations. Then, we saw that the competition is news TV. But what kind of news that we want to present? At the end, we decided to make a TV news station that rivaled Wall Street, for the upper market. We make news for the mainstream. Like when we talked about inflation, we did not only report the inflation is 5% – 6%, but we also talked in context. When we talked about the price of chilli peppers, we also talked about the condition of the stock in various cities.

Then we changed Lativi’s name to tvOne that focused on the male demographic of a certain age that liked sports programming. Therefore, we moved the sports programming at ANTV to tvOne. We tried to combine between CNN and ESPN, this rarely ever happened. But, we thought we would try it. At the end, we tried with World Cup, but it turned out to not be as profitable.

After you were unsuccessful with World Cup programming, what did you do?

We thought, maybe our luck is with local contents. From way back when, ANTV had broadcasted Liga-I soccers, we also thought we shouldn’t stop with soccer. So we tried with entertainment sports, and we thought of UFC. UFC is like One FC in ASEAN. Then we tought, why not create our own programming, One Pride MMA, because Indonesia has many fighters.

We started by embracing them nicely. We created a network of almost 500 gyms. Then, we made a contract and ensured them that during the fights they were covered by insurance and would get amazing medical attention. We already broke even in the first year, and then we profited in the second and third year. That means, it’s not just sports like soccer or badminton that people are interested in, entertainment sports are also interesting. So tvOne focuses on local news, international, and also local sports.

This way, our two TV networks aren’t colliding, but synergizing. So when we meet our advertisers, we can convey it easily and nicely. When asked about the target market and the programs that we market, we’re clear on that. But, we don’t stop there. We think about ways to help them sell so their ads are successful. There are many things that we do, not just about the ads, but also as part of the program. This way, everything become effective. Usually, when there’s a program airing and it gets cut off by ads, the audience will switch and such, but if it’s like ad-clips, it can be a key for us to keep moving forward.

So that means those five years you were in unsteady waters. So how did you transform all of that?

We in VIVA Group believe in quiet revolution. It’s not because of anything, it’s more that we didn’t know if we were going to be successful or not. So we don’t want to boast because if it doesn’t work, we’ll be embarrassed and feel awkward about it. So we said, five years ago, that our resources were limited, so we had to have an agreement with the previous owner. Before, we focused on telecommunication, media and technology (TMT). But, we decided to focus in the media.

Secondly, we focus segmentation. When managing two TV stations of course you have to divide the segments, one focuses on women, and one on men. It seemed easy, but it wasn’t realy because there were also many groups that had two to three TV stations and they all focused on entertainment. Entertainment is like a supermarket. For lazy management, we’ll just dump it all in there, someone is bound to eat it eventually. So we tried not to be lazy. tvOne is for men, and ANTV is or women.

Thirdly, when we saw that our competitors started to race and won, and we didn’t, we didn’t consider that a problem. So while we unloaded a few burdens, we also had to save money. We had to rack our brains to create interesting programs, sold with the same price, they even had to be more interesting but not expensive. Now many people say, Indian programs are great because they’re easy to buy. The problem is how to make it lost cost with high interactivity.

Facing such complexities, what did you do?

You need to realize that what made it successful was not the film, but the talent management. It’s like that show Indonesia Lawyer Club (ILC) in tvOne, the attraction is not on the chair or the set, but it’s on Mr. Karni [Ilyas]. With his expertise and network, he was able to interact and dig deeper on interviews with the sources so it’s like the audience is right there. With Mr. Karni’s strengths and amazing network, we eventually made ILC Road Show all across the nation.

The point is, we first have to make a design on the business that will run. The second, the segmentation has to be clear, we can’t reach all segments. Third, when we start from limitations, we had to save money, there has to be a low cost strategy. Lastly, we have to be interactive.

We already have the tips and tricks, they’re not too complicated, it’s only to implement all of those we need a vision, DNA, and the right execution. The rest, we have to be abelt to interact with stakeholders, shareholders, stock market, and others. Our strengths do not lie on dreams or vision, it’s simple, we just want to make Indonesian family happy.

You kept mentioning about DNA, What amazing DNA does ANTV and tvOne possess then?

First, our gene is resilience. What I mean is that we are not champions but we also don’t want to be defeated. So, we have resiliency. Everyone in VIVA is resilient. Second, we also implement the attitude of not being lazy, not just physically lazy, but also laziness in thinking, laziness in innovating, laziness in making customers happy, laziness in crunching the data, and laziness in finding unique overseas programs. If you look at it, all animation on ANTV aren’t from Universal, Disney, or Warner Bros. Their programs are expensive, and they may not even sell that well. The anti-laziness DNA has to be there. Thirdly, don’t be stupid. Meaning, it’s okay to make mistakes, but don’t repeat the same mistakes. Our sense of human is also big, when we see something we just face it, keep moving forward.

The benefits of working in this industry is that while there are still Indonesians that need entertainment, content will always be king. Maybe the distribution and means are different, they can be analog, digital, internet, or even telepapthy, but content is still needed.

So, if you ask me what kind of business VIVA is in, we can answer that VIVA is a business that produces and distributes contents, contents that can be based on data, principled, and are enjoyed by Indonesian public. When you ask me what competitive advantage we have, we can answer that we know more about Indonesia than other people. We know what Indonesians want to watch, we have many experiences. We don’t always succeed, we have failed a few ties, but we keep learning from experience. If from 10 options, 9 don’t work, at least there’s still 1 that does.

You mentioned that you had to be diligent in crunching the data. What does data mean to you?

We believe in data. To transform all of this, you have to see and read all the data, both for the men, and also for women. The segmentation can be known through data, it’s all based on research and data. Data is important, but not everyone wants to do it. Looking for and crunching data is not an easy thing because we have to be really meticulous about it. It just so happens that my background is Industrial Engineering, I went to school abroad to have one purpose, that is how to create something that is similar, but with a more efficient and effective way.

In the future, my vision is to read the data more accurately so I could get input from the data directly and in real time, maybe by making use of artificial intelligent and internet connectivity, so we can go live. Today, there are many people who create things, it could be video or something else, and spread them on social media. From there, we can know the number of audience and likes. We can see the level of interest in these things. It will be even more interesting if one day we can find an interactive application that helps our audience to interact, play games or shop directly when they’re watching television.

Like for example, when watching Pesbukers. If one day we can work together or create a platform to know when people watch, when they don’t watch, the things that interest them, their interest in buying the clothes that Raffi Ahmad is wearing, or maybe more people want to watch Jessica Iskandar. From there, we can know what the audience wants. We want to know the audience better so we can help advertisers to create more targeted advertising.

After you get the data, how do you crunch the data?

Big companies like Snapchat and Facebook have obiviously managed to dominate the digital world. Now we want to learn to get there. I think, that’s the biggest benefit of the digital technology. I think the most important thing is not just having great picture quality or bigger channel, but how to get the data live and in real time. I think that’s interesting as well as the challenges of digitalization. So for example, Pesbukers show. With realtime decision, during commercial break we can know which jokes are good, and which performer should we put on first, and other things. This kind of data should already be possible to have.

Now we can know the hottest topic that Indonesians are looking for, whether through Twitter, Facebook, or others. However, the hard part is to connect the dots. If we can do that, of coruse it will make it easier for us to prepare contents for production. So we want to use the right platform to distribute contents that we create to the Indonesian public in the right way.

Are you heading towards there now?

Right now we are already doing it, but not AI-autonated. It’s just a matter of time. We can do analog automation, that’s why we can claim that prime time is not just from 6 -10 PM, every hour is prime time.

How do you crunch social media data if there’s no overlap between ANTV and tvOne?

We always assume that television and internet develop together and complement each other. We know that those who watch television are older in age than those who are on the internet and using social media. They are still part of the same family. So, we make sure that we use internet technology and platform to get closer to the same family. When they are having breakfast or dinner, they will talk about the same thing. This is why ANTV can be said as one of the channels that is often a trending topic because that’s how we designed it.

To widen our audience, we have to have different ways of communication. Houseives or non-working children, we divert them to television. The same goes for older men, of course they will feel more comfortable watching a soccer game on television.

How do you encourage out of the box thinking?

We take the business very seriously. I often say, if we want to innovate we have to read often. I say this because I have failed more times than others. If you have experienced failure, once you’ve succeeded, you wouldn’t keep failing. The important thing is, don’t fail twice in the same area. We always think about what the advertisers want, who they want to sell their products to.

Right now, we have to be more scientific, read the data, focus group discussion, do research, and other things.

The most important thing that you must know is that what the public likes may not be what we like. That’s what made us unsuccessful before. We used to be snobs who would only air Hollywood films, they were expensive, and people already watched them in the cinema. It’s different with Persian, Turkish, Indian, Russian, or Filipino shows. The point, is, you have to do trial and error, when you are wrong you must quickly change and learn from your mistake. The good thing about being in technology, is that you can do trial and error as often as you like, but without making a huge mistake. So we have to keep doing experiments.

We would do experimental programming, see whether or not it will sell in the market. If it does, we improve it. It’s not just from seeing the trends, but we also look at the demographic data and the psychology of the Indonesian public. With technology, we can know all this. But to be able to zoom in, we need art. So technology provides the way, art lets us know what people like. Then, we combine and manage both. Don’t get things wrong. Don’t just determine something based on feelings.

Where will you take ANTV and tvOne in the future?

Now we see that the technology of the world keeps changing, and the people keep growing. We feel that to make a family happy is eternal. Even though at first we talk about entertainment, in the future VIVA has to think about O2O. That’s where the money is. For example, we can compete online, which film and soap opera that will be good to adapt, we localize them, but offline experience is irreplaceable, like when there’s a meet and greet with the actors.

We think about the jumps forward by thinking that people still watch TV. Understanding habit of humancan use technology, but we can’t use technology to understand the soul and conscience.

The most important thing is to execute online to offline so it’ll be something that hits the mark straightaway. Just imagine, a meet and greet that can bring 30,000 people together. You can advertise products there. That’s when people can appreciate our performance, through advertising.

What do you think VIVA will be like in the next 5 to 10 years?

In 5 to 10 years, we have to be able to go even higher, maybe becoming like Indonesian Disney. They have news channel, ABC channel, even sports channel. And you can take the online to offline everywhere, from theme parks, to products.