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Games the thing in S.E. Asia

SYDNEY — Audiences in Southeast Asia like things local, but they also are attracted to the slickness and gloss of certain things Western — like gameshows.

Western gameshow practitioners Fremantle Intl. Prods. and Reg Grundy are the first to sniff out the predilection and spin their wheels of fortune in the region.

Fremantle, along with Australian partner R.A. Becker & Co., is shooting “The Pyramid Game” for Singapore pubcaster SBC, “The Newlywed Game” for Jakarta-based RTC-I and “The Family Game” for another Indonesian channel, SCTV.

Grundy signaled plans to focus on Southeast Asia by opening an office in Singapore last year and is getting ready to do “Family Feud” for Indonesian channel Anteve. In a separate agreement with the same broadcaster, Grundy will produce “Wheel of Fortune.”

“The Pyramid Game,” made in English, is outscoring the opposition on the normally higher-rating Chinese channel in Singapore, says Becker & Co. chief exec Richard Becker.

Becker says Asian broadcasters often are “slow to trust outside producers to come in and help get shows up.” On that issue, Becker and his father Russell, the company’s founder and chairman, have a decided advantage: They have been selling U.S., British and Australian programs to the region for 20 years.

Asia “will become an important market for us, but it won’t happen overnight; it will take a lot of time and effort to develop,” Becker says.

Grundy Entertainment senior VP Andrew Brooke says attempts by Asian producers to make local versions of U.S. gameshows generally have not succeeded due to “lack of knowledge and experience.”

Grundy brings the expertise and hires local people to ensure each program reflects the local culture, according to Brooke.

Tony Skinner, Grundy VP production who runs the Singapore office, says Asian broadcasters generally shy away from quizshows, which they regard as too taxing, but like gameshows.

He notes that many countries resist the idea of a $ 500,000 “Sale of the Century” prize, which is common in Australia, preferring to limit cash or prizes to a more modest $ 5,000 to $ 10,000. Muslim countries reject any shows that are based on gambling.

Some newer stations don’t have their own studios and would balk at the $ 100, 000 tab for bringing in sophisticated gameshow equipment like a video wall or computer scoring display, Skinner says.

“We’re working on smaller margins than we get in other countries because broadcasters have limited budgets,” Brooke says.

Unlike Grundy with its base in Singapore, Fremantle/Becker prefers to fly in production teams from Sydney.

Both companies say their sights are set on producing throughout all of Asia. “I think we will see a small boom,” says Skinner, who is pitching shows to stations in Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, South Korea and Malaysia.

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