Asia in Focus

Looking ahead to trends that will be shaping the format business in 2021, World Screen checked in with a number of producers and distributors about the format landscape in the Asia Pacific.

With production stalled in many markets throughout 2020, it’s not been an easy year for the format business. But distributors with smart and savvy concepts are feeling upbeat about 2021.

“We are continuing to see interest in a lot of local production formats and scripted formats,” says Sabrina Duguet, executive VP for AsiaPac at all3media international. “Clients want safe, reliable content with track records, which will also help getting sponsors. Formats also allow a fast track to production. We have had great success with Miss S, the new Chinese scripted format adaptation of the globally popular Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, seen on Tencent and HBO Asia. Marzi, the Hindi adaptation of award-winning producer Two Brother Pictures’ thriller Liar, was also a success, and we are continuing to work with local producers to explore local production with international topics and exploit local content.”

One of all3media international’s key launches in AsiaPac is the game-show format The Cube, “which is made all the more timely as the show can be filmed with social distancing in place; its inherent dynamic and entertainment value remain intact as contestants complete physical challenges for cash prizes,” Duguet says. “Knock Knock is another format game show that is a perfect fit for Asia. Teams compete to win a big jackpot in the ultimate test of general knowledge and memory. It is based on the classic ‘memory pairs’ game, but instead of turning cards, the show has life-size doors and a multilevel set.”

Sayako Aoki, manager of sales and licensing for the international business development (IBD) unit at Nippon TV, notes that the pandemic has seen “the licensing of our formats for original production in local Asian countries slow down.” Nonetheless, she sees strong prospects for the company’s entertainment formats in Asia, among them 9 Windows, which was co-produced with The Story Lab. The show was “planned and developed before the COVID-19 outbreak, and we were able to produce and air the show in September 2020 under strict production regulations,” Aoki says. “Just like this format, in the non-scripted world, it is likely that studio-based formats that maintain a fun atmosphere and a creative structure but with cost-effective measures and manageable production styles will continue to be a trend.”

On the scripted format side, India remains a voracious buyer of compelling drama concepts from the global market. Among those leading this space in India is Applause Entertainment, a venture of the Aditya Birla Group, which has remade Criminal Justice, Hostages, The Office and more. “When we’re picking these formats, we firstly think if we can imagine this in India,” says CEO Sameer Nair. “If you take all the international shows that get made, 90 percent don’t make the cut. They’re either too specific, too unique or too different. On the other hand, let’s look at The Office—I think it should be remade in every country. It is that show: a sleepy little town, a sleepy little office, a boss from hell who is self-absorbed and a bunch of people goofing off who think they are doing great. It has those universal insights. On the other hand, Hostages at its core is a thriller that can find expression everywhere. We’re also producing Fauda; the conflict over Kashmir lends itself to that Israeli-Palestinian storyline. It’s a matter of land and people separated by religion and, therefore, politics. When we pick these stories, we get into them and try to localize them.”