Singapore’s Asia TV Forum returns in person for the first time in three years, and like so many markets that have come back to form in 2022, it faces an industry forever altered by the pandemic and set for further disruption from macroeconomic forces.
Known to the international TV industry simply as ATF, the December event is regarded as a key meeting place for distributors, and has always had a reputation for being a significant international hub for deal making across Asia. But this year’s edition, which runs from Dec. 7-9 at the Marina Bay Sands in the heart of Singapore, is set against a backdrop of a looming recession, the corporate restructuring of multi-national players and the rise of local streamers.
Speaking to Variety, group project director Yeow Hui Leng of ATF organizer RX Global, says the event’s top priority is to “get everyone reconnected” after three pandemic-stricken years, and facilitate new relationships, particularly in light of ramped-up industry consolidation and company restructuring.
“We have curated more networking events and new pitches with decision makers,” says Yeow. “We have also placed more focus on matchmaking to facilitate connections during the market, and online meetings with companies who are unable to attend in person.”
Read on for a preview of what’s in store at this week’s ATF market.
What are some of the key content highlights of the market? What’s new, and what features remain the same?
The market remains robust with a diversity of content and leading brands represented, though some exhibitors had to scale back on the number of attending personnel due to costs and company-imposed travel restrictions. Buyer attendance is almost back to pre-COVID levels and ATF might be the first in-person market for some Asian buyers this year.
This year, in addition to the current pitches we have been running, we introduced new pitches with 108 Media, Warner Bros. Discovery and Vidio. The idea is to facilitate more face-to-face discussions with decision makers who are looking for ideas and partnerships. With Korean content rising in prominence globally, we have also curated “Spotlight on Korea” sessions with top Korean studios and platforms to talk about the current K-Wave and their strategies taking on global competition.
What are some of the trends you’ve noticed in the programming that’s coming to market?
Korean content and Japanese anime continue to be in high demand and are evolving to become even more premium. This coincides with global platforms collaborating with Asian partners to access local audiences.
We are collaborating on a new Thai Drama Pitch with Warner Bros. Discovery for our comeback edition this year, seeing as Thai content has been trending well these past two years.
BL [Boys’ Love] content is also going strong. This genre has been highlighted recently given its appeal and commercial potential on the global market. Taking advantage of this trend, GagaOOlala, the Taiwan-based global LGBTQ+-focused streaming platform, will be hosting a showcase during ATF.
Are there certain territories that will be more prominent at this year’s market?
Content from France, Spain, the U.K. and U.S. remains prominent. From Asia, South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Thailand are well represented.
China has been slow to re-emerge in the international industry following COVID. How prominent will Chinese delegates be?
The number of attendees from China is smaller than before. However, some Chinese companies are still travelling out for business. Key brands such as Bilibili, iQiyi, Youku and WeTV will still be attending. We also have an exhibiting pavilion from Zhejiang [Province].
How is the growing plethora of Asian streamers affecting the market? What structures have ATF put in place to help facilitate those connections for delegates?
Streaming opens the world to a diversity of content, and with diversity comes opportunities. From ATF’s perspective, it is good for the market since content is still king and critical to the success of any platform. With competition for good content, everyone is more eager to talk, collaborate and explore possibilities for fresh IPs and new ways of storytelling, whether through co-production or other means. It will act as a catalyst to elevate production values in general.
We have been inviting decision makers from streamers to sit on the judging panels of pitches to review ideas submitted from across Asia. iQiyi has been on the Chinese pitch panel with G.H.Y. Culture & Media for many years, and we launched a new pitch this year with [Indonesia’s] Vidio to call for projects apt for the Indonesian market. In addition, we also reached out to the streamers to help matchmake them for meetings with exhibitors who are new to Asia.
What is your outlook on the year ahead? How do you envision ATF responding to some of the macro-economic changes that are set to affect the industry?
From a market organizer point of view, it will definitely be much more positive than the last two years as the majority of the Asian markets reopen. Our Chinese friends should be back in full force at ATF by December 2023. The macro-economic environment is fraught with uncertainties especially with inflation at an all-time high. Hence, we have already started working with our suppliers and partners to manage costs so that we are able to minimize the impact on our attendees.
ATF runs from Dec. 7-9 in Singapore. Variety is publishing digital dailies each day of the market.