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Asian TV Formats Still Failing to Migrate to a Truly Global Market

Despite the soaring size and vast potential of the Asia-Pacific marketplace, the region's content producers are still failing to compete with the international reach of the hugely-lucrative West European and North American television formats.

Photo: In focus at the ATF: Indonesia’s burgeoning media market and the future of Pay TV. (Shutterstock.com)
In focus at the ATF: Indonesia's burgeoning media market and the future of Pay TV.
Photo: In focus at the ATF: Indonesia’s burgeoning media market and the future of Pay TV. (Shutterstock.com)
In focus at the ATF: Indonesia's burgeoning media market and the future of Pay TV.

As ever, the Asian TV Forum & Market (ATF) – which now bills itself as: "Asia's entertainment content market" – saw new partnerships unveiled, individual markets highlighted, emerging trends analysed and the impact of real world events on this dynamic sector pondered and pronounced upon. This year's event – the 18th ATF – was again held in conjunction with ScreenSingapore, an annual celebration of Singaporean cinema, and reportedly saw some US$289 million worth of deals concluded over the four-day run of the two shows.

In terms of partnerships, Chee Hong Tat, Singapore's Senior Minister of State for Communications, Information and Health, capitalised on his role as guest of honour to announce number of strategic alliances between Mediacorp – the ultimately state-owned national broadcaster – and several domestic and overseas content providers. Among those touted as having signed-up were the Discovery Networks Asia Pacific, HBO Asia and Viddsee, a Singapore-based video-hosting platform.

In a further announcement, he also outlined plans to give Singapore-based media freelancers – including writers, photographers, designers and game developers – a better deal through the mandatory imposition of the Tripartite Standard on the Procurement of Services from Media Freelancers. This new code of conduct offers support for such freelancers in four key areas – contracts, payment, dispute resolution and insurance – with any companies failing to meet the specified standards likely to be excluded from state funding and other industry grants.

During the course of the event, the organisers also announced a partnership with Perfect World Pictures, a Beijing-based film production and distribution business. This new arrangement will see the two organisations work together to promote the best scripts and formats from Singapore and elsewhere in Asia to China's online movie market.

Commenting on this new initiative, Yeow Hui Leng, the ATF's Senior Project Director, said: "Nurturing Asian talent is always front-of-house for us and we are delighted to be working with Perfect World to help Asian content creators bring their best ideas to fruition in China."

In terms of its focus on individual markets, this year the ATF turned its attention to Indonesia. Highlighting the potential of this currently under-served market, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, Founder and Chairman of the MNC Group, a Jakarta-based media company, said: "Over the next 20-25 years, Indonesia's population will overtake that of the US. It will also have a disproportionately young population and this – alongside its projected US$3 trillion-dollar economy – will result in a market with huge media opportunities.

"Overall, its media sector is set for rapid growth. The expansion of its traditional media will be driven by its burgeoning middle-to-lower income demographic, while its digital media sector will prosper on the back of increased urbanisation."

Providing more of the raw data relating to Indonesia's media market, Reza Haryo, a Senior Consultant with IDC Indonesia, the country's largest media neutral data centre, said: "At present, internet penetration is around 31%, while mobile is up to 59%.

"In the case of Indonesians in the over-40 demographic, TVs and desktop PCs are their preferred devices, while the under-40s favour mobile. The country is on the cusp of a digital transformation, with more and more people going online. Many of its advertisers, though, are still traditionally-focused, with only 12.8% of the current adspend allocated to digital."

Photo: Hole in the Wall: Asia’s most successful format.
Hole in the Wall: Asia's most successful format.
Photo: Hole in the Wall: Asia’s most successful format.
Hole in the Wall: Asia's most successful format.
Photo: Chainsaw Maid: Animated horror courtesy of Viddsee.
Chainsaw Maid: Animated horror courtesy of Viddsee.
Photo: Chainsaw Maid: Animated horror courtesy of Viddsee.
Chainsaw Maid: Animated horror courtesy of Viddsee.

Taking more of an international view, Keri Lewis Brown, Managing Director of K7 Media, a UK-based provider of specialist media intelligence, said: "Currently, the three big TV trends are fragmentation, globalisation, and consolidation. Taken together, the three make it very difficult to create a truly global hit.

"Of the top 20 international formats, none were created after 2010 and nothing has broken into the top rankings over the past seven years. As a result, it may be quite a while before there's a Next Big Thing."

In addition – despite the rising popularity of Korean formats – Asian formats, in general, still have a way to go. Overall, in terms of supplying formats, the UK heads the top 20 list with 10 internationally successful formats, followed by the US at six. The sole Asian entry is Japan's Hole in the Wall, which places the country in 16th place – making it the only Asian country to feature in the Top 100.

Expanding on the most popular formats, Brown said: "Game shows are in first place and account for 36% of the total, followed by reality TV at 34%. Of the top 100 formats globally, 31% are from the UK, followed by 27% from the US and 15% from the Netherlands. Over the last decade or so, however, there has been a shift, with the UK and US slipping, whilst Israel and the Netherlands have begun to make real inroads."

Looking at more topical developments, Tim Westcott, Director of Channels and Programming Research for IHS Markit, a London-based business analyst, said: "Overall, 2018 will be a big year for sports TV across a variety of platforms, with a number of mega-events set to take place, including the Winter Olympics and the World Cup. As most sports' viewing is still done on a live basis, the free-to-air channels attract huge audiences. pay TV, though, is the natural home for sports.

"In the UK, prior to the arrival of pay TV, the number of sports broadcast hours per week averaged out at about 18. Following the arrival of Sky TV in 1992, this went up to 60. By 2019, there will be more than 190 hours.

"The high cost of pay TV bundles and the growth of broadband, among other things, though, has seen brands switching to online. In line with this, 2018 will see the launch of ESPN and Formula One as digital offerings. Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook are also all beginning to offer live sport on their platforms."

Turning his attention to the growth of on-demand services across the Asia-Pacific region, he said: "At present, India is the most prolific market, with 20 platforms, all available for as little as $3 a month. Overall, pay TV still has considerable room for expansion in the region when compared to the West, where growth has plateaued out.

"China will soon comprise a staggering one-third of the global market, while India will account for a further 17%. In terms of mobile broadband, the numbers are just as striking. Currently, 49% of the world's 3G and 4G subscriptions stem from the Asia-Pacific region and, by 2019, we project mobile viewing will equal TV viewing.

"Of the 4,000 on-demand services providers operating globally, only 16% are in this region. Among the top ten Asia-Pacific operators, six are Chinese. Taken together, Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent had more than 100 million subscribers in China in 2017. In line with this, by 2021, we predict that online advertising revenue will exceed TV ad revenues."

Addressing another fundamental change, Jan Rezab, Founder and Chairman of Socialbakers, a Prague-based social media marketing platform, said: "Today social media is mass media. Facebook, for example, has more than 500 million interactions per week, with a huge focus on news and entertainment.

"Given the kinds of numbers they command, in terms of online advertising revenue, it's actually a duopoly – Google has a 35% market share, while Facebook has 23.5%. Alibaba then comes in at distant third with 11.6%."

Photo: The ATF 2017: As ever, China was the big market all content producers wanted to woo.
The ATF 2017: As ever, China was the big market all content producers wanted to woo.
Photo: The ATF 2017: As ever, China was the big market all content producers wanted to woo.
The ATF 2017: As ever, China was the big market all content producers wanted to woo.

Asia TV Forum & Market and ScreenSingapore 2017 took place 28 November-1 December at Singapore's Marina Bay Sands Expo & Convention Centre.

Ronald Hee, Special Correspondent, Singapore

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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