Suited to Asia

Formats remain in strong demand across the region as channels and platforms look to up their local content slates.

The Asia TV Forum last December featured its first-ever Formats Pitch. Backed by all3media international, the competition sought out innovative concepts from the region that could be exported across the globe. Less than a year later, all3media international announced it had clinched its first commission on the winning entry, XTREME Media’s Hit It, which is set to premiere in Singapore next year.

The Formats Pitch will return to ATF this year, with all3media keen to tap into the new opportunities emerging in the formats business across the region.

“That covers the opportunity in terms of platforms, transmission slots and indeed genres that the market is open to,” says Sabrina Duguet, executive VP for the Asia Pacific at the company. “This is in part due to the growing number of platforms that are now also looking at original content, the increased budgets for local productions, which in turn has led to more slots for such programming, and finally, the channels are willing to take more risks, to try new ideas and content” as they look to drive viewership and revenues.

Haryaty Rahman, the senior VP of sales and distribution for Asia at FremantleMedia International, agrees, noting, “We’re seeing a lot more opportunities in terms of how we can place our formats in the region, be it in the form of a widening pool of format buyers that cuts across a multitude of platforms (free to air, pay TV, OTT), as well as groups that are willing to invest in our formats (agencies, brands, etc.).”

Another new development in the last few years, Rahman says, has been a stronger appetite for pan-regional versions of formats on big pay-TV channels like AXN, which is in season two of Asia’s Got Talent.

Isil Turksen, sales director for Asia at Global Agency, has witnessed a “shift in demand towards different genres—buyers are now more open to try and produce new types of formats, even if they haven’t been tested.”

Gary Pudney, the head of Asia at Keshet International (KI), says the most significant transformations for his formats business in the region have come from India and China. “The ongoing challenge of doing business in China and the rise of the Indian market have been the biggest changes in the last 12 months,” Pudney explains. “China’s restrictions continue to grow and present ever greater challenges, however India is really taking off and presents hugely exciting opportunities, not only for domestic activities but internationally too as there are some fantastic creatives based there waiting to be exposed on the international stage.”

Those two markets are major priorities for Inter Medya, which has expanded beyond drama distribution with a format slate that includes the game shows Money Monster, 1 vs. 10 and The Box Challenge. “The Asian market is quite new for us and we are happy and excited to work with any territory on the continent,” says Can Okan, founder and CEO of Inter Medya, “but India and China, in particular, are countries where we would like to deepen our existing connections and begin new business relationships.”

Bomanbridge Media has radically altered its format strategy over the last year, according to CEO Sonia Fleck. “This year, the decision was made to cut back and discontinue distribution efforts on format themes that simply do not work well,” Fleck says. “Formats require a lot of time, energy and creative collaboration. We want those efforts to be efficient and focused. Observational reality series, for example, frankly have a low resell value in Asia. Other genres such as dance competitions are not strong in the list of successful themes to localize. The company is, therefore, tightening our focus to carry formats that are suitable for Asian tastes. We are now focusing almost entirely on game-show studio-based formats, beauty and ‘inspirational’ competition as well as a curated selection of other talent-based competitions.”

Global Agency’s Turksen identifies singing competitions and game shows as key genres for the region. Recent deals for the company in Asia include Amazon Prime Video India taking The Remix, a music reality show. In addition, Pick’n Run is rolling out in Vietnam next year, as is My Wife Rules, which is also headed to India.

When asked what kinds of properties are doing well for KI in Asia, Pudney says it’s a “mixed bag. We are selling all genres in the region.” The talent competition Masters of Dance has landed in Vietnam, Rising Star is going into its second season in India and the game show BOOM! is present in Thailand and Cambodia.

At FremantleMedia International, Rahman reports sustained interest in its “big-brand talent shows such as Got Talent, Idol and X Factor, which continue to be highly successful in the territories that have taken them on and hence we see renewals on a year-on-year basis.” She also references solid traction with game-show and comedy formats. “We’ve recently completed deals for Thank God You’re Here and My Mom Cooks Better Than Yours in Thailand, Family Feud in Mongolia and Man O Man in Vietnam.”

“The prime-time entertainment studio formats are still in high demand in the region and mark a key moment in a channel’s schedule,” reports all3media’s Duguet. “However, there is now space for non-studio entertainment and factual entertainment.”

Among the all3media shows adapted in the region are Sexy Beasts, Are You Normal?, Cash Cab, Gogglebox and Undercover Boss. “A great range of shows are being licensed with a variety of budgets,” Duguet says.

Bomanbridge’s Fleck notes that the shows most in demand are those that can give channels “bang for their buck, allow them to recoup their production costs and garner ratings,” and those tend to be game shows, entertainment, singing competitions and scripted drama.

Scripted formats is an area mentioned by many distributors as one that’s growing as the drama business booms worldwide. “Scripted formats are a new and solid way to introduce our content in the region given the international success of Turkish dramas,” says Global Agency’s Turksen. “Fiction products are the most demanded in the whole world, and Asia is a pioneer in drama productions. In addition, given Global Agency’s dynamic and innovative content, we believe there will be new productions in the region in 2018.”

Pudney says that he’s seen rising interest in KI’s scripted formats, among them Loaded, Traffic Light, False Flag and The A Word.We also hope to announce further deals (in addition to India) for Prisoners of War very soon.”

Duguet says that all3media international has invested heavily in scripted drama over the past two years, “doubling our investment in the genre—and this has resulted in our strongest year to date in the genre. This has created a great response in terms of scripted format adaptations. This will definitely be more of a focus for us next year.”

Looking ahead, Duguet says that she’s keen to see Japan open up more to formats on the heels of all3media licensing Undercover Boss there. “In terms of where we would like to do more, I would say the Philippines and Malaysia,” with a new lineup that she believes will be well suited to those territories.

“We would like to further deepen our relations in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore,” says Turksen.

For Fleck at Bomanbridge, a priority growth area is formats with a “strong digital angle. Whether it be linear channels or nonlinear platforms, a smart digital angle can provide a beautiful opening to additional revenues for our clients.”

And broadcasters having more money to spend bodes well for the future of the format business in the region.

Pictured: FremantleMedia’s Asia’s Got Talent on AXN.