Singapore's Asian Food Channel sold to US network

Acquisition boosts Scripps' regional presence, 'allows AFC brand to grow'

SINGAPORE-BASED Asian Food Channel (AFC) has been gobbled up by American TV network Scripps Networks Interactive.

The acquisition, for an undisclosed price, was announced by New York Stock Exchange-listed Scripps on Monday in the United States. A number of other suitors had been interested in AFC.

AFC chief executive Maria Brown said the eight-year-old start-up saw Scripps, with its popular food offerings such as Food Network and Travel Channel, as a good fit with AFC.

Many global media companies, she said, loved AFC's dominance of the Asian food TV space and valued the brand. But it was with Scripps that AFC felt most comfortable that the brand would grow long after the deal was done.

Scripps also had excellent experience in the TV food space gained over the last 15 years, she said.

It has "many more channels than we did, and we could see great opportunities by merging with it to leverage our AFC brand beyond our current footprint across the world", she said.

Ms Brown, a former BBC journalist, co-founded AFC with former investment banker Hian Goh in 2005.

AFC aimed for high-quality Asian programming that could compete in a global market.

"We also developed our look and feel to be authentically Asian and, fortunately for us, our viewers understood what we were doing immediately and embraced our brand loyally."

Both founders are delighted with the deal "because it's the culmination of eight years of furiously hard work".

"So many people asked us over the years, 'why take the risk to become entrepreneurs', and we always say it's because you get the privilege of building something from scratch, with its own unique brand and identity. You also get to learn the skills for brand and team building, and applying great financial discipline to your business so that it survives.

"Of course if you do it right, then people who are global experts in the field come along and want to buy what you've built."

AFC, the first Asian pay-TV food channel, reaches about eight million subscribers in 11 markets including Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and South Korea.

With this acquisition, Scripps has now strengthened its Asian presence by adding AFC to its Food Network and Travel Channel. Scripps, which is more than 130 years old, is a lifestyle media platform with TV, digital, mobile and publishing interests.

AFC's initial investors were family and friends as well as venture capital firm Vickers Venture Partners. Later investors included investment firm Symphony International Holdings. The amount AFC raised was undisclosed.

Vickers did not disclose its returns on its investment. Chairman Finian Tan described AFC as a solid performer, adding that it "made well over 100 per cent" return on its investment.

The recipe for AFC's success, he said, was that it was the first Asia-wide TV food channel, as well as good business execution by the co-founders.

AFC's acquisition by Scripps is rare as only a handful of Singapore start-ups have been acquired by foreign companies. American software house McAfee bought mobile security start-up TenCube in 2010 while Dutch digital security company Gemalto bought security firm DS3 last December.

chngkeg@sph.com.sg