When it comes to barometers for what’s hot in the world of entertainment, there are normally a few different gauges than Drama Summit, Entertainment Weekly, Variety or Rolling Stones. In recent years, the latest superhero(s) have had to share the stage with a wealth of buzzy TV dramas, refl ecting the rising importance of scripted series to the average consumer’s entertainment diet.
Unique drama is a key selling point today for online delivery brands as these platforms consolidate their position in the market. But while digital platforms are hungry for great stories, there’s a desire for quality drama among the pay-TV channels and large free-to-air broadcasters such as Singapore’s Mediacorp, as nothing strengthens a TV brand, digital or otherwise, better than highquality, compeling drama.
A few years ago, the US$100M Kevin Spacey-led series, House Of Cards, has been hailed as a game-changer, establishing a new route of distribution with an all-you-can-eat offering direct through Netflix. There’s a lot more demand out there for unique content, unique stories, unique drama today. Traditionally it was the business of big free-TV channels to commission drama. Now you have a lot more players in the market such as the VOD platforms like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Viu, and HOOQ who all are looking for original content as well.
What has also changed is America’s dominance in the global supply of drama. While there’s no denying that U.S. content continues to deliver big audiences world-wide, the drama business appears to be booming everywhere. And against that backdrop, the battle is on among producers, broadcasters and distributors to land the best projects, wherever they may hail from.
With the increase in popularity of drama on new platforms, how is Mediacorp satisfying demand with its finished products regionally?
“It is very competitive,” observes Suzie Wang, Head of Content Distribution, Mediacorp Studios.
“The proliferation of OTT players actually presents new opportunities for Mediacorp. The ability to watch on multiple devices and bingewatch all episodes encourages high consumption and long hours of watching.
“This means that content providers who are able to provide multiple genres in bulk numbers are well positioned to meet the programming needs of OTT players. Mediacorp currently produces 1600 hours of content annually, and we have a wide selection of genres that cuts across documentaries, dramas, variety programmes and even original web series. We have ample content to provide any OTT players who wants quality, quantity and variety,” she says.
Mediacorp recently sealed a bulk deal with Thailand-based OTV Network, to sell 400 hours of drama titles for the new OTT platform. These titles with genre that ranges from action, family to romance, will be made available on the new platform launched in September this year.
Mediacorp’s content will be available on the new platform by December starting with titles such as The Dream Job, Yes We Can! and Tiger Mum. OTV Network is also planning to extend its OTT service to several countries including Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in the coming year. It is set to launch the service in Cambodia by November 2017.
This is the largest number of hours of Chinese content OTV Network acquired from a single distributor todate. Suzie says, “With Mediacorp’s dramas already gaining traction in most South East Asian countries, OTV Network hopes to boost its Chinese content offering to appeal to the new markets it is expanding into.
“This is the first time Mediacorp closed a volume deal with a Thai partner, after our many successes with partners in Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Vietnam. One of our recent successes include a deal of close to 500 hours with Netflix, a global streaming service player available in 190 countries.”
As for what it is that broadcasters are seeking out, the answer appears to be, a bit of everything. Buyers and commissioners are more open to experimenting with new ideas according to general views.
A previous Media Partner Asia’s (MPA) verdict on viewing preference reveals that people are choosing much more varied slates than they did 18 months ago. As serialised storytelling has found more and more fans across the Asia-Pacifi c region, it’s almost surprising what will work now.