It’s fitting that HBO Asia’s first original series is a reflection of the region itself, featuring a story that walks a multicultural line, careful not to offend while at the same time relevant and entertaining enough to play to the different audiences across the cabler’s footprint.
The show, “Serangoon Road,” takes its name from the old street that cuts across Singapore Island and connects its many ethnic communities; it’s the first original programming in the 20-year history of the cabler.
“Quite simply, it was necessary for the brand,” says Erika North, head of programming at HBO Asia and exec producer on the series. Making a move into original programming was perhaps inevitable, given that localization of feeds and content is seen as the way forward for many entertainment groups in Asia.
Created and co-exec produced by Paul Barron of Australian firm Great Western Entertainment, “Serangoon Road” (pictured) features a series of multicultural detective stories set in Singapore in the mid-1960s. The first of 10 episodes aired simultaneously in HBO Asia’s 23 territories and Down Under on Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Sept. 22.
A big bet for HBO Asia, “Serangoon Road” is probably the largest single title it has acquired — though the company is unwilling to divulge the cost.
Behind the camera, “Serangoon Road” was a multicultural hybrid. It shot largely at Infinite Studios, in Batam, Indonesia, just a ferry ride away from the modern Singapore of today. Infinite is also an investor in the project. North says that it would not have gotten off the ground had it not been developed in both Singapore and Australia with government support from both countries. Singapore’s Media Development Authority is a financier, as is Australia’s Screenwest.
Simply put, HBO Asia is hoping that the more viewers see local infl uences on “Serangoon Road,” the more they’ll be willing to travel it.