Local, local, local. That’s the refrain from Asia’s biggest streaming platforms about their scripted acquisition needs. The likes of Viu, HOOQ and iflix have been buying up shows from Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand, among other markets. Even Hulu Japan, which has acquired mainly from the U.S., has broadened its remit, picking up the Indian historical epic Porus from One Life Studios. But in Asia’s busy media landscape, there are opportunities for all kinds of scripted shows, from glossy U.S. network dramas to brooding Scandi noir, Turkish romantic comedies and everything in between.
“Asia is slowly developing into a market that is hungry for different kinds of content given the growing number of OTT platforms debuting around the region,” reports Nixon Yau Lim, the head of Asia Pacific at Eccho Rights.
“Even though Asia is still a new region for us, we have seen an increasing demand for Turkish content in Central Asia especially, and Southeast Asia,” adds Can Okan, the founder and CEO of Inter Medya.
In terms of content from the Asia Pacific, Korean dramas continue to dominate, but opportunities remain for suppliers from elsewhere in the region.
“We have a consistent business in Myanmar, which continues to grow, while clients from Vietnam, Brunei, Thailand and Malaysia acquire content on a regular basis,” says Roxanne J. Barcelona, the VP of GMA Worldwide in the Philippines. “We aim to increase our presence in India and China.”
Barcelona notes that some 95 percent of the company’s regional business is with traditional linear channels. “While we entertain inquiries from digital platforms, business is limited as mostly they prefer a revenue-share arrangement.”
According to Barcelona, Filipino dramas resonate in many parts of Asia “because of the similarity in our cultures, the look of the cast being similar to how other Asian people look, and of the unique storylines. We find that stories that revolve around individual courage, perseverance and familial love are acceptable to viewers in these markets.”
Contemporary and romance dramas are among GMA’s top sellers, with the company arriving at ATF with a slate that includes Beautiful Justice, A Place in Your Heart and The Gift. “Current content trends show that viewers are looking for non-traditional dramas that revolve around themes of crime, the supernatural and suspense,” says Barcelona on the appeal of the company’s ATF lineup.
Over at ABS-CBN Corporation, “Our content is currently being well-loved and widely accepted in Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia and even in the islands of Fiji and Papua New Guinea,” says Wincess L. Gonzalez, sales head for Asia and Latin America. “In the coming months, we are also eyeing to enter the hearts of viewers from our neighboring Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, Mongolia, India and Korea.”
Gonzalez is of the opinion that ABS-CBN’s content has been able to travel widely because of its “family values. We always make sure to produce content that gives every viewer a charter they can relate to and learn from. Every dramatic scene of pain, sacrifice and triumph is meticulously told to enthrall the emotion and sympathy of the viewers. We also make sure to inject social relevance in every story.”
Family dramas revolving around romance tend to be the most popular, Gonzalez observes, “but that does not stop us from experimenting with new breeds of stories that feature crime themes.” At ATF, for example, The Killer Bride is among the company’s lead highlights.
India’s One Life Studios, meanwhile, is promoting costume dramas such as Porus and Chandragupta Maurya this December in Singapore. “Costume dramas have always attracted audiences and broadcasters because of their elaborate sets, costumes and empowering storylines,” says Rahul Kumar Tewary, producer and managing director at One Life Studios. “They are a perfect blend of all elements, ranging from action, thriller, love and revenge to fantasy and family values.”
Thus far, Southeast Asia has been One Life’s biggest market for scripted, notably Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. “Indian dramas have always resonated with audiences in these territories due to the similarities in the culture, history and Indian legacies that have always been considered epic,” Tewary explains. “We also believe that audiences across the globe are now more open to experimenting with far and away content and cultures they have not heard of before. In that sense, one could anticipate a more positive response from Europe for Indian content.”
Tewary is also hoping to find new opportunities in China and Latin America.
Turkish distributors have already conquered Latin America and are looking to do the same in Asia, a region that has long loved telenovelas and daily soaps.
“Following the U.S., Turkey positioned itself as the world’s second-biggest TV series exporter in recent years,” says Inter Medya’s Okan. “Over the last decade, the popularity of Turkish TV series and feature films has skyrocketed across the globe. Turkish series are particularly popular in these markets because audiences can relate to the strong characters and stories.”
Inter Medya’s regional successes to date include selling the dramedy Hayat into Sri Lanka. “It had great ratings from day one,” Okan reports. “Hayat was particularly popular in this region because of its unusual comedic spin and romantic story.”
Also, the International Emmy Award–winning Endless Love was acquired by an OTT platform in India, Okan says. “This deal was very exciting to us as it was our first digital agreement in Asia,” Okan notes. “We cannot wait to see what the new year will bring!”
At Calinos Entertainment, Asli Serim Guliyev, international sales director, says, “Indonesia used to be the largest importer of Turkish dramas in the Asian market, however we have very good connections within a number of countries now, including Bangladesh and Malaysia.”
Guliyev says that audiences can easily connect with the values in Turkish dramas. “The audience can find something to empathize with, and thanks to these unique features, our dramas touch their lives and become more popular by the day.”
On offer from the company at ATF will be highlights such as The Girl Named Feriha, Our Story, Forbidden Fruit and Woman, itself based on a drama from Nippon TV.
Fellow Turkish company ATV is showcasing the historical epic The Ottoman starring Burak Özcivit at ATF, alongside Hercai and Lifeline, which Müge Akar, content sales deputy manager, says will have particularly strong resonance among female audiences.
“We believe that with our new highlights, we will be the right point of contact for the buyers seeking love stories and historical drama series,” Akar says of her ambitions for the Singapore market this year.
Two new Turkish dramas headline Eccho Rights’ ATF portfolio, Everywhere I Go and My Sweet Lie. “Asia is still a huge follower of good, light romantic drama,” says Yau Lim. “Aside from that, the main actors in both series are the kind that make Asian audiences swoon and fall head-over-heels for. The Asian buyers who were at MIPCOM reacted positively when they saw both these titles. I’m certain that other Asian buyers will be equally thrilled when we launch these two titles at ATF.”
Eccho Rights is also home to a slate of Scandinavian dramas, among them the recently renewed Swedish crime series Honour. “There are some Asian OTTs that are into dark, gripping, and edgy series,” Yau Lim says. “Honour is our answer.”
Eccho Rights is not only selling Honour as a ready-made show, Yau Lim continues. “It has huge potential as a remake for certain markets like India and perhaps even Thailand.”
Scripted formats are indeed an expanding opportunity for drama distributors worldwide, including in Asia, but thus far, India has been the most responsive. “The opportunities in other countries [in the region] are not as vast,” says One Life Studios’ Tewary. “We definitely see potential in territories like Turkey and China.”
“We submitted scripted deks to clients in Myanmar, MENA and Latin America,” says GMA’s Barcelona. “We have sold seven scripted formats to Mexico through our partner, Latin Media Corporation.” Barcelona also notes that GMA is “experiencing an increase in the number of inquiries for co-production.”
Interest in Turkish scripts is picking up, according to Inter Medya’s Okan. “Since we’ve been attending ATF in recent years, we have seen an increase in demand for scripted formats, especially from Asian countries,” Okan explains. “We hope to license one of our products in this region soon.”
Calinos’s Guliyev has also noticed this trend. “There are quite a few Turkish formats that have been remade and are currently in production. Turkey is a factory of dreams and the world knows about it. For us, selling formats is creating a partnership, like a symbiosis of force and traction that can create state-of-the-art productions. Turkish stories will always be attractive to people from all corners of the world as they contain the perfect ingredients that constitute a good drama—unshakable patriarchal values, love triangles, family dramas and unsolvable dilemmas. Products like this can easily flow in a competitive world. We are currently working with a few countries and territories such as Bulgaria, Hungary, Spain, the Far East and Latin America.”
Whether for tape sales or formats, there is plenty of opportunity for drama distributors in Asia, Eccho Rights’ Yau Lim notes. “Asia is still a developing market for Eccho Rights, but we see so much potential in it.”