Asia is a buzzword in TV these days. The region’s sound economic fundamentals, large populations, growing middle class and major opportunities to expand in pay TV, to sell and develop formats and to explore multi-platform possibilities, make it a juicy target for TV companies from all over the world.
“Our markets are heterogeneous and are at different stages of development, so there are many opportunities for pay TV penetration to grow, especially in territories such as Indonesia and Thailand,” says Ricky Ow, executive veep and g.m. of Asia networks at Sony Pictures Television, which operates some of the region’s top pay TV channels including AXN, beTV, Sony Entertainment Television, Animax, ONE and SET.
Digitization is also an important development, with India already making the switch and other countries heading toward it.
“In addition, consumers in many Asian markets are looking beyond TV to the second and third screens, and that offers the opportunity for more content to be consumed,” says Ow.
Banijay Intl. has already established a strong foothold in Asia — primarily in China and Japan — and m.d. Karoline Spodsberg believes the region is becoming more and more interesting format-wise.
“We want to embrace the whole region and the small countries are coming along,” says Spodsberg. “We have a very concrete foothold in China and Japan. In China we have sold four of our formats, from primetime entertainment to gameshows.”
Among its big successes in China and Japan are gamers “Honey, Pack the Bags!,” which sold to China’s Shenzhen Satellite TV in June, and “Hold on to Your Seat,” which sold 150 episodes to Japan.
“China has changed quite a bit. A few years ago it was a lot more complicated,” she says. “There are more than 100 commercial channels and we’re dealing with many of them directly and feel we have a good sense of what they are looking for. It’s a lot more smooth and easy.”
Last year, Banijay Intl. signed a deal with China’s first online TV portal, Qiyi, to produce Banijay’s dating gameshow format “Date My Car.”
But Spodsberg notes that China won’t be just buyers in the future. “We have seen in past years the trend of Western format producers to hook up with Asian developers to co-produce content. There will be more and more formats created in Asia and exported to the rest of the world.”
Rose Hughes, sales executive at DRG, says Asia is very keen right now on family shows, but there is broad demand for content right across the continent.
“We see the Asia TV Forum as a great opportunity to launch our content. We don’t just sell European content, but also global content from Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries,” says Hughes.
Among the skeins they will be selling is a remake of the quiz show “Catch Phrase,” cooking show “Marco Pierre White’s Kitchen Wars,” “Sooner or Later” and “Big Tiny.”
“There’s been significant interest so we hope to take these to ATF and close deals. Also we’ve a slate of new dramas coming in and we can see what the reaction is and expand our footprint,” she says, adding that for DRG, “China is very much a focus, we are doing more and more there, as is India.”
Hughes says the Asia TV Forum is an opportunity to meet not only established clients but also a chance to access harder-to-reach areas like Vietnam and Malaysia.
Technology is playing a major role in opening up opportunities, with programmers targeting multiple content-consumption platforms with their offerings.
Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution is bringing two new dramas to the Asia TV Forum: Cold War drama “The Americans,” which centers on the marriage of two KGB spies posing as Americans; and police procedural “Graceland,” which focuses on a diverse group of law enforcement agents who live together in a Southern California beach house. Both programs are offered at the market for the first time, Fox says.
Forum host Singapore has always taken pride in its tech leadership, and in the past few years the country’s Media Development Authority has been encouraging production companies to create transmedia content, which can be better monetized on platforms such as smartphones, tablets and IPTV.
“As Asia’s media industry grows on the back of rising consumer demand for entertainment, opportunities are arising for European and American TV and production houses to ride on Asia’s growth by investing in this part of the world,” says the MDA’s Yeo Chun Cheng.
“Technology is fundamentally changing the way viewers are watching television. As a result, entertainment markets have become increasingly fragmented, and content creators are constantly innovating with new formats and transmedia content to engage audiences and enhance viewing experience.”