Where is the Asian factual content heading?
Frank: Asian factual storytelling is always in a state of change. There are large numbers of producers from Asia with a massive variety of approaches. From independent filmmakers’ vision much loved in Taiwan to commercial models of factual entertainment that drives the region’s cable channels.
What we’re seeing now is how demand is changing rapidly as new platforms and new taste emerge. Now you’ve got more platforms interested in the blue chip content that cables had lost interest in. You’ve got more evolution in markets like China, where audiences are after informative, educative content and also gaining an appetite for the reality approach, which is much loved by the West. Then you’ve Discovery and Nat Geo which is publicly declaring that they need to return to their roots. In a nutshell, it’s very different and yet it’s also the same.
Why is Asian factual content less popular in the West? Is there a feeble in Asian storytelling?
Frank: I don’t think it’s easy to define. Asia is a melting pot of different cultures, languages and religions. Asian channels struggle to create pan-regional content. There are several other set-backs such as the lack of funding, the channel’s ambition to focus on their specific audiences, and where the programme aired. American channels have zero appetite for Asian content and there is better respond from Europe buyers.
Budgets across Asia for factual are pretty small. Independent filmmakers have lesser access to a range of grants and offsets that support their projects. Branded content is the driving force behind most cable channels now in Asia. So why does that work? The typical small approach supporting domestic stories work well for the local markets and audiences but this won’t travel to other territories.
We have made regional stories that travel well, wining worldwide audiences and awards, together with strong partners. PTS in Taiwan is a good example; they invested time and effort to create strong documentaries that resonate with audiences who don’t speak Chinese. The issue is always about numbers – even as big players like Netflix come to town, will they have enough content to draw viewers regionally? Will they be willing to spend on content that works for Asia and not in America? Will they have to produce more local content and if so, who will tailor make these?
How will children discover factual content in an ondemand world?