Singapore may be becoming the de facto center of TV co-production in Southeast Asia.
That is a reflection of the way many of the major U.S. entertainment conglomerates have set up in, or moved their regional headquarters to, the city, and also how those same outfits are now localizing the channels they distribute in Asia.
The four-day Screen Singapore/Asia TV Forum & Market kicks off Dec. 9 with such international players as Viacom, Turner, Disney, Keshet, Twitter, BBC and National Geographic attending. Ma Dong, chief content officer of Baidu’s iQiyi, delivers the keynote speech on opening day.
Local production is becoming an important plank for HBO Asia, which operates a largely pan-Asian feed.
The channel’s first effort was “Dead Mine,” a TV movie that was made in 2012 and got a limited theatrical release in Singapore. It was followed by “Serangoon Road,” a 10-part series starring Joan Chen and Australia’s Don Hany.
Where “Serangoon Road” was a co-production with the Australian Broadcasting Corp., HBO’s latest Asia-produced show, the supernatural horror four-parter “Grace,” originated from its Singapore office and is produced by Infocus Asia.
“We operate across 23 territories, and it is difficult to find the magic bullet that connects with audiences everywhere,” says Erika North, HBO’s head of programming and production in Asia. “So the idea behind ‘Grace’ is to use genre as a unifying force.”
Michele Schofield faces a similar task at A+E Networks Asia, where she is the group’s Singapore-based senior VP of programming and marketing.
“In addition to trying to cater to multiple countries and audiences we are really looking for a show that can run for five or more seasons, like our ‘Pawn Stars’ in the U.S.,” Schofield says.
In 2012, the company launched a pair of linked shows “Hidden Cities” and “Hidden Cities Extreme” for History Asia Made by Singapore-based Beach House Pictures, part of the NHNZ group, wholly owned by former Fox Network Group boss David Haslingden, the shows follow actor and filmmaker Simon Yin on adventures across Asia. Schofield greenlit a second season earlier this year.
In addition to housing the regional bases of companies including A+E, Sony Networks and Discovery, Singapore is also increasing its role in co-productions though a growing network of co-production treaties, including recently inked ones between Singapore and Canada, New Zealand and Japan, while others exist with China, South Korea and Australia — a mesh that locks the resource-poor city-state to fast-growing regional majors and also to the screen entertainment industry’s most established soft money centers. Singapore also offers its own soft money source in the Media Development Authority.