In their infancies, streaming services catered to mostly English-speaking audiences, so naturally they prioritized English-language content. However, as American streamers expand to more territories around the world, they will have to diversify their programming.
The recent success of non-English series, such as Spain’s “Money Heist,” France’s “Lupin” and South Korea’s “Squid Game,” in English-speaking markets now has streamers widening their sights in search of the next global sensations.
This trend was certainly felt at the Hong Kong International Film & TV Market (FilMart) last year. According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, FilMart Online 2021 saw an increase in buyers from over-the-top (OTT) platforms and broadcasters, including Korea’s Watcha, the Philippines’ Cignal TV, U.K.’s Mubi and Taiwan’s Catchplay.
As one of the largest content markets in Asia, FilMart 2022 is perfectly positioned to continue to bridge Asian content providers with buyers from around the world. Among the 677 exhibitors that attended FILMART Online 2021, 50% of them were television-related, including close to 100 broadcasters. This year, Southeast Asian broadcasters will be out in force, in hopes of selling their content abroad and achieving the success of their Korean counterparts.
After seeing robust growth in 2021, Viu, the pan-regional OTT video streaming service founded by Hong Kong’s PCCW Media Limited, will increase its focus on creating original content by releasing over 30 original productions. In Thailand, one of the company’s key regions, Viu Thailand is heavily promoting “Wannabe,” a coming-of-age musical drama starring “Bad Genius” star Chanon (“Nonkul”) Santinatornkul. The young actor stars as an aspiring rapper who is navigating the perils of everyday life as part of a rap group. The series will feature a guest appearance by Sunny Day, a member of the popular local hip-hop group Thaitanium.
Viu Thailand is also riding on the rapidly increasing popularity of LGBTQ+ content in Thailand with anthology series “Close Friend.” The company is promoting its popular first season at FilMart 2022. The second season is expected to be released later this year. In its home base of Hong Kong, Viu also operates a free-to-air TV channel that features original programming, including dramas and variety shows.
Singapore state broadcaster Mediacorp Pte Ltd. is offering a slate with both reality and fictional programs. Four-episode reality series “Inside Maximum Security” is an eye-opening look into Changi Prison, known for the rigorous measures imposed on its inhabitants. Through the perspectives of six prisoners, the series asks why one in four inmates return to jail within two years of their release, despite the Singaporean prison system achieving one of the lowest reoffending rates in the world.
On the dramatic programming side, Mediacorp is offering fantasy comedy series “Genie in a Cup.” The 20-episode series is about an e-commerce tycoon whose spirit becomes trapped in an “A.I. cup” (imagine “Knight Rider,” but with a cup) after he is killed. When his biggest fan gets ahold of the cup, the tycoon’s spirit and the fan become an unlikely crime-solving team investigating the truth behind his mysterious death.
The Philippines’ largest entertainment conglomerate, ABS-CBN International Production and Co-Production, is offering several of its long-form TV dramas. This includes “Marry Me, Marry You,” a well-received 45-episode romance drama about the love affair between a strong-willed woman and a cynical businessman, as well as the complications that ensue when the woman’s three godmothers get involved. Additionally, the programming features “When Love Burns,” a relationship drama about a love triangle that develops when a married congresswoman’s ex-lover comes back into her life. There’s also the 50-episode crime drama “Viral Scandal,” which sees a family’s skeletons unravel in public when an explicit video featuring the eldest daughter goes viral. All three series air locally on the Kapamilya Channel.
Hong Kong’s broadcaster TVBI Company Limited is promoting “Big White Duel II,” the second season of its popular 2019 TV series. Featuring a majority of the first season’s main cast, the 30-episode series once again portrays the interdepartmental conflicts and romantic entanglements between the staff of a large hospital. Co-produced with mainland Chinese streamer Youku, this season was partly filmed in Shanghai.
TVBI Company Limited is also promoting “No Poverty Land,” a 12-episode documentary series. Shot in 10 poverty-stricken regions in mainland China, from the tropical rainforest in the south to the Gobi Desert, the show tells inspiring stories about the measures that are taken in China to help free people from the shackles of poverty. Earning an average rating of 9.5 on social networking site Douban, the series proved to be a hit in mainland China, sparking discussions among locals about poverty in the country.
Besides buying broadcasting rights, broadcasters in both East and West have also turned to remaking foreign shows for local audiences. This year’s EntertainmentPulse conference series, to be held concurrently with FilMart Online 2022, includes a discussion about the localization of scripted TV formats and how to balance the taste of local audiences without losing the essence of original programs and more.
Jessica Kam-Engle, head of content and development at The Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific, will speak about how Disney+ is collaborating with leading content creators to showcase stories from Asia Pacific to global audiences. The company has been actively investing in content across Asia Pacific, producing a growing slate of original series including “Grid” and “Snowdrop” from South Korea, and landing streaming rights for the director’s cut of blockbuster Hong Kong biopic “Anita.”