This year, the 10 countries of the ASEAN community are celebrating their 50th anniversary. Member state Singapore staged several celebratory events during the months of July, August and October, and the Asia TV Forum (ATF) market is expected to benefit from an influx of participants from other members, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

But while the added excitement sounds great, it might also have negative implications if, in the words of one distribution sales executive who wished to remain anonymous, management gets set for higher expectations. In Southeast Asia, the primary region for ATF participants, license fees can go as high as U.S.$8,000 per hour for larger territories or as low as U.S.$300 per hour in Cambodia. Rather than lose out on a sale due to management requesting a higher, more unrealistic price, sales executives in the trenches often report lower offering fees than the ones actually offered.

For example, it’s common to report U.S.$6,000 instead of an actual U.S.$8,000 offer, so that when management demands higher prices, the sale can easily be confirmed.

Dates for the ATF 2017 are November 29 to December 1, with the “Leaders’ Summit” conference portion starting on November 28. These dates are a week earlier than last year, bringing the ATF closer to its sister LATAM event, MIP Cancun (which this year takes place November 15-17). The ATF is organized by Reed Exhibitions, while MIP Cancun is a service of Reed’s subsidiary, Reed MIDEM.

The three-day event, now in its 18th year, will be held on the upper convention floors of the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

The ATF is part of a massive media show hosted by the Singapore government’s Info-communications Media Development Authority, which consists of established constituent events, including the Singapore Media Festival (SMF), the Singapore International Film Festival, the Asian Television Awards and ScreenSingapore.

The SMF, which celebrates the best in Asian storytelling, will return for its fourth edition this year, and will be held November 23 to December 3. This year’s festival will feature a greater emphasis on emerging technologies and increased regional collaborations with Indonesia (which is also SMF’s first country-of-focus).

This year, the ATF is launching a new ATF Animation Pitch with India’s Green Gold Animation with the tagline, “Think. Believe. Dream. And finally… Dare.” The winner will receive a U.S.$19,000 prize from Green Gold, comprised of a U.S.$2,500 cash award and a consultancy package worth U.S.$16,500 that will help the winner develop a presentation ready to be pitched to broadcasters.

The ATF Formats Pitch will return for a second time, backed by All3media International.

The ATF tends to be Singapore-centric, with lots of attention given to local politicians and government officials. As for the market portion of the event, it has been reported that the trade show would benefit from a hotel room-based exhibition, instead of its current stands format — especially if buyers and sellers could be housed under the same roof.

As usual, VideoAge will be in attendance and will focus on gathering market information. Last year, its reporters were surprised to find European buyers, like YLE’s Johanna Salmela, who was looking to acquire Asian TV series, “with a limited number of episodes to be subtitled in Finnish.”

According to official statements, “last year’s ATF and ScreenSingapore was attended by 5,383 participants from 54 countries, and an estimated U.S.$244 million worth of deals and partnerships were facilitated throughout the event.”

It also had a record number of 738 exhibitors, with all U.S. studios in attendance, which, for the first time, included Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution.

Yeow Hui Leng, Senior Project Director of ATF Asia and ScreenSingapore at Reed Exhibitions, stated: “countries with a strong buyer representation at ATF 2017 include key Asian markets such as China, Hong Kong, India and South Korea, as well as emerging ones such as Mongolia and Myanmar. There will also be buyers from outside the region, including countries like Hungary, the U.K. and the U.S.”

According to Andrew Haber of the U.S.-based Alfred Haber Distribution, the increased presence of buyers at the ATF has reduced the need for side trips to visit clients in their offices either before or after the market. “All my clients were there,” he commented.

Usually, each sales executive manages to meet with at least 25 buyers in a two-day period.

Nevertheless, the region remains challenging, mainly due to the diversity in programming needs from one territory to the next. Budget limitations and the abundance of regionally produced content are also limiting factors to the success in licensing Western content in Asia as a whole.

However, to Liz Levenson, VP, International Acquisitions and Sales, GRB Entertainment, “If the recent markets are any indication, then ATF will be a buying market. We are confident that many deals started this year at previous markets will close at ATF.” In terms of territories, Levenson added: “Vietnam is a growing market. We’ve seen a strong demand in content for not only Vietnam, but Indonesia and the Philippines, as well. In addition, we continue to work with pan-regional broadcasters and SVoD platforms in the region as need for top-quality content grows.”

She continued: “GRB launched a new slate at MIPCOM. However, we [have] a few additional series that are currently in production and will have screeners available at ATF, including crime series The Stalker Files and It Happened Here.”

Annie Yim, Lionsgate’s VP of International Sales, shed some light on other aspects of doing business at the ATF: “We have meetings with companies who buy Asian territory rights,” she said, noting that “the acquisition team can be based out of Asia.”

As to the question of whether or not the ATF is a buying market, Yim explained that, “It seldom happened that a buyer will identify a program on site and confirm buying.”

As far as the multitude of Vietnamese buyers, she added, “They have the appetite to buy. The hurdle is the deal term discussion.”

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