There have been a few changes to the TV landscape since the last MIPCOM, one of them being the surprising rise in Asian content across American TV screens in particular, and elsewhere in general, and it’s not just due to the success of Squid Game or K-Pop. That said, Squid’s Emmy nominations and two wins certainly made a further statement that good content with global appeal doesn’t just come from the U.S. or Europe. The fact that Asian TV formats have spawned hit shows such as The Masked Singer and I Can See Your Voice is further testament to South Korean TV savvy, while Japan’s NHK World is making inroads into LATAM with its new series Teen Regime.
Hardly surprising then, that content providers from Asia and companies dealing with Asian TV content will be making their presence felt even more in the Palais and its environs during the October market.
To start with, the new series, Elpis from Japan’s Kansai TV, will be this year’s MIPCOM Asian World Premiere on October 18, the market’s second day.
According to Roxanne Barcelona, VP, World-wide of the Philippines-based GMA Network, “This was not a ‘sudden’ occurrence. Over the years Asian content slowly made its way outside Asia via the Internet. The Internet changed everything. Even if nothing ‘foreign’ was on the air over free-, or even pay-TV, viewers started to discover non-English content via the Internet. Subtitled in English or in their native language(s). They got used to reading subtitles (and) the broadcasters realized that with subtitles, they could attract more viewers.”
A quick search not only supports Barcelona’s comments but also shows that the Internet and other formerly non-traditional resources continue to feed a seemingly ravenous demand for such content. More than a dozen apps are currently out there offering Korean content alone, while more content from Japan and India, along with several other countries, is also available.
According to Sonia Fleck of Singapore-based Bomanbridge, “The creative potential of Asia is only starting. Streamers are doubling investments, important creative incubation programs have been set up to provide a conduit for young talent (of which we have many considering almost 60 percent of the global youth population is in Asia). As global growth stalls, content platforms are setting sights on our region. As other markets such as the U.S. and Europe are near saturation, Asia was one of the only markets which continued to show growth subscriptions and content hunger on an impressive scale.”
She continued: “With the investment into Asian storytelling to drive local subscriptions and viewing, we are of course having the much desired trickle-down effect whereby great talent offers a fresh new approach to shows. Global audiences are interested in these new styles, cultural nuance, and finesse, which feel different and are simply put, great. I find it interesting that certain countries seem to be so surprised by their own curiosity for Asian productions. It’s a good sign that people are opening up their minds and participating in a global community of good stories. We really are still at the beginning of this journey.”
While the Internet may have opened the door, until then it appeared that U.S. TV and movie execs seemed to think that audiences would not want to view images and read text at the same time. But the change, according to Paul Gilbert, Paramount Global Content Distribution’s SVP of International Formats, was “easy. All you need is one hit show or movie to start a wave and then the wave just keeps getting bigger. Great content subtitled, dubbed, or otherwise will always find its way. It’s true that at one time U.S. viewers turned away from subtitled programming, but not anymore!”
GMA’s Barcelona concurred, “I do not think it’s a ‘fad.’ Asian content does have a strong future outside of Asia. The world has gotten smaller because of our connections through the Internet.”
There’s a question of whether content providers across the Asian territories suddenly came up with great content viewable by any audience, or if the U.S. (in particular) just “woke up” to what was going on?
As with everything else in the world, certain things come along, hit big but then are replaced by others — and the “fad” is over. Could this be the same for Asian or other foreign language content?
“A fad?! Absolutely not!” said Gilbert. “As time goes on more and more countries will join the list (of those) whose content will travel successfully.”
One has to wonder whether this “content invasion” and success has taken the U.S. and Europe by surprise and what will, or has been done to get the game back. The “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” attitude seems to have clicked into gear with several partnerships being initiated between countries and companies.
Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s Imagine Entertainment has extended its reach into Taiwan. Imagine has partnered with TAICCA (Taiwan Creative Content Agency) and the Taipei-based Sixty Percent Productions to produce Emerge, a new program designed to support Taiwanese creatives and original TV series. Disney, Apple TV, and Netflix are among a host of companies making deals and putting money into Asian content.
Gilbert said, “I’m sure there are many more U.S. companies who have or will team up with Asian companies to develop programming that can travel.” But, he warns, “I feel that for most streamers to excel and be successful, their content will have to travel. As we know, there is too much competition and therefore, they have to do anything they can to stand out. That includes great content that can be seen worldwide.”
Lest anyone worry that the sheer amount of content coming from overseas territories will put U.S. or European creatives out of work, Gilbert offers a positive answer for everyone, “I don’t see it taking away any jobs! With more content being produced every year in every country there are plenty of creative jobs to go around.”
As an incentive to attract productions from around the world, Thailand boosted its film incentive scheme (which has been in place since 2017) to allow a tax exemption for all foreign actors who work on movies or television productions in the country. The government says the program will be in effect for at least five years.
It isn’t just the creatives involved in ideas for shows, Asian companies involved in VFX and animation are also being recognized internationally. India alone has seen a dramatic increase in that business, to the point where it has exceeded $100 million — a four-fold increase over revenues from a decade ago.
More and more deals are being done to acquire, partner, buy, and sell involving Asian entities, and they don’t look to be slowing down any time soon. Figures of $1 billion, $5 billion and more, are being put behind plans to increase new worldwide-friendly content.
Barcelona’s GMA Networks is one of the primary sources of Filipino content and has seen much success in the distribution of its content in recent years. The entity now has three syndication divisions — Worldwide, handling syndicated distribution (free-TV, pay-TV, SVoD); GMA International, distributing its linear channels worldwide; and New Media, Inc., which takes care of distribution via various AVoD platforms such as YouTube.
Gilbert admitted that, “More than ever, many of my [MIPCOM] meetings are scheduled with the Asian buyers. I see the market getting bigger and bigger and we want to be part of the wave. My meetings will continue at Singapore’s Asia TV Forum.”
(By Mike Reynolds)
Audio Version (a DV Works service)