Q: What were some of the highlights of Formats Asia 2013?
A: The idea for Formats Asia is really to get a broad view of the formats in the local production industry from a broadcaster point of view, from a production company point of view, and from a content owner and distributor point of view. Not forgetting the branded entertainment folks as well. So all those different sectors are represented on our discussions and I think it’s bigger and better this year than last year. This year we were at the Grand Hyatt in Hong Kong for one of the days of the CASBAA event. That enabled us to expand the whole event to a much bigger proportion and have more participants, more speakers and better audio and visual.
Q: Could you share a couple of takeaways based on the conversations that took place at Formats Asia?
A: I think one of the focuses is particularly on China at the moment. What are some of the new regulations from SARFT going to mean? Speaking very broadly, the view was that this is just another set of regulations coming from China and we’re all used to dealing with them. We have to find different and better ways to expand it, obviously, particularly with the restriction on entertainment formats. The general consensus is that some of the other types of shows are also likely to be looked at. Studio entertainment talent shows may be restricted, but also formats in non-entertainment genres. Of course there are formats in documentary and drama– there’s lots of other types of formats.
Still the formats business has a future in China, which was the general consensus which was positive from most people that were there. Another was what is the future of formats coming out of Asia? Of course they are increasing, with people coming up with ideas for shows that are generated within the region and I think there’s a general acceptance that the standard of ideas and creativity is a lot stronger than it was a couple of years ago. People have risen to the challenge with shows like The Apartment, Challenger Muay Thai, and some of the other shows that are being generated outside of Asia that have been very successful. There’s a long way to go but people are a lot more optimistic that ideas and creativity is getting better.
The Japanese have done well with ideas over the last few years and we’re getting more ideas out of Japan as well, which is good. Japan is taking a wider view of the world and is realising that some of these ideas have yet to be capitalised and developed outside of the country itself. So that’s the popularity of Asian formats generally, not just regarding China, but the opportunity for non-entertainment formats across the region are growing as well. Those formats could be potentially anything from factual ideas and shows, making local shows or dramas. Disney has identified a whole number of shows that they are interested in making locally or within the region. American shows and shows from other countries around the world have done well and could potentially do very well if there is a local version in this part of the world. Also with kids’ formats, they’ve got a lot of non-entertainment shows as formats that could really be developed into something very applicable for individual local markets within the region.
Right: James Ross, Founder of FORMATS ASIA, and CEO of Lightning International
Q: How was ATF for you?
A: I think that the ATF market was very good actually. There was quite a lot of passing trade this year, but we always come to the market with a diary full of appointments and as a result we had a very good market. We met a lot of people in a short amount of time and I found that people were generally very positive about the market and really upbeat about content acquisition as well. We felt there was strong interest on top of the some of the big titles that we have for this part of the year for the MIPCOM Asian slate, and I’m very optimistic for the quarter of 2014 as a result. We had buyers from all over the region from China, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam; pretty much the whole of Southeast Asia and a few from beyond that as well. I think it was a good two-and-a-half days.
Q: Which titles did buyers express interest in?
A: I think the ones that are particularly of interest include Music For Elephants which is a documentary about a British guy in Thailand who entertains elephants in the elephant reserves with a grand piano and they respond.
Cooking and travel shows seem to have a great surge of interest. Essence of India is a brand new India travel and cooking show, which we have worldwide rights for, which is great. We’ve also got a show called Go Greek with Patricia, which is a Greek cooking show. And we’re working with another distributor, Flame Distribution, to add A Taste of Australia, which is good because we’re having a little bit of a theme going with cooking and travel shows.
We’re working with Bloomberg to market some of their shows at the moment. We have a great series called Game Changers from Bloomberg, and we have good interest in that series at ATF. Also, we have a forthcoming animation project that we’re involved in called Sinbad and the Seven Galaxies, which is going into production and we were showing early footage from that animation. There was a lot of interest in that. It’s a Paul Robinson’s series and we’re working with him to distribute it.
On the formats side, there is a lot of interest in a couple of other formats. Real Dish Fake Dish, which is a show where celebrities have to see how much they really know about their own favourite food at their favourite restaurant. It’s a crazy Japanese format and asks if you identify your favourite food from the taste– which is kind of cool.
There’s a lot of interest in Fit for Fashion, which is a new show that we’re distributing for Imagine Group, which is fitness meets fashion and how as a normal person you can develop your body so that you can become a fashion model: how do you get your six-pack, how do you build yourself up to have a great body that would potentially be a fashion model? So that’s a new show that Imagine Group is putting together.
We have a number of movies from around the region now that some people have a lot of interest in. So there’s a collection of Asian movies which includes movies from Malaysia (Media Prima), also from Thailand, a movie called Last Summer which is a horror movie. There’s a Korean movie called Miss Change which is a comedy from Korea, and a Chinese drama called Song of Silence, which is a moving drama about a deaf girl.
Q: Do you get a sense that buyers are still cautious about buying?
A: I think the answer to that is yes and no, sorry to be sort of sitting on the fence. I think that they’re always cautious that they are buying titles which are going to deliver good ratings for the channels and deliver appreciation from their management. And I think to be optimistic about it; there was a bit more optimism in this market than I’ve seen over the last few years. It’s probably one of the more optimistic markets that I’ve been to recently.
I’m a lot more optimistic about our industry generally. There’s a lot more people in the industry producing a lot more content, and a lot more platforms to get the content out to consumers. So I think for everybody who is in the food chain, it’s a good time to be in the industry.