This story appears in the December 2020 issue of Television Asia Plus.

Television Asia Plus interviewed six media executives on the content trends for 2021 and the strategies they’re implementing in terms of local production and acquisitions. While 2020 may have been a challenging year for the industry, these interviews show that not only has the industry been able to adapt to the current circumstances brought on by the pandemic, but there is something to look forward to from these companies in 2021.

International Studio

BBC Studios

ryan shiotani bbc
Ryan Shiotani. Courtesy of BBC Studios.

Ryan Shiotani, Senior Vice President and General Manager, South and Southeast Asia, BBC Studios

On content trends of 2020 vs. 2021:

The COVID crisis resulted in an increase in television viewing all over the world. On our branded services in Asia, the demand for our distinctive, world-class content remained strong overall and we did see increased viewership for certain genres that reflected the fact that we were home-bound. On BBC Lifestyle, programs like The Great British Bake Off and Your Home Made Perfect performed well as more people took up activities like baking and home improvement during lockdown. As we are largely unable to travel, audiences watch more of our talent-led travel and adventure content on BBC Earth presented by Joanna Lumley, Ben Fogle, and Simon Reeve.

British drama continued to grow in appeal in Asia in 2020 and home-bound viewers avidly sought out the latest series to binge-watch. BBC First, our premium British drama SVOD service, saw record viewing figures for the edgy award-winning thriller Killing Eve S3 in April. Audiences also sought out more comforting and familiar fares such as Grantchester and The Mallorca Files.

CBeebies, aimed at preschoolers aged six years and under, provides a consistently safe environment for children to learn through play. The content mix includes new favourites such as Hey Duggee and classics like Thomas and Friends which educate and entertain young audiences. We saw increased viewership for CBeebies on-demand content on our multi-genre BBC Player Asia, particularly in the months of April, May, and June.

The COVID pandemic accelerated the trend of audiences wanting access to more content whenever and wherever they want it. We’ve seen an increase in viewership in 2020 on our BBC Player which features on-demand content from all of our brands. We expect that to continue in 2021, helped by the launch of new set-top boxes by our affiliate partners that provide a frictionless viewing experience.

The Watch BBC Studios
Coming to BBC First in 2021 is ‘The Watch’ which is based on Sir Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ novels. Courtesy of BBC Studios.

Content strategy for 2021:

There is a demand for distinctive world-class content, that informs, educates, and entertains, which the BBC is known and love for. In 2021, you will see new landmark natural history titles on BBC Earth such as A Perfect Planet, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. On BBC First, 2021 will see the launch of The Watch, a new high-concept drama series inspired by the characters of Sir Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” novels. Taking bold British creativity to the region will continue to be at the heart of what we do.

OTT Players

Viu

virginia lim viu
Virginia Lim. Courtesy of Viu.

Virginia Lim, Chief Content Officer, Viu

On content trends of 2020 vs. 2021:

A Media Partners Asia trade report on online video streaming noted that the online average weekly viewing minutes across Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand increased by 60% from January to April in 2020. In this same report, it was reported that Viu recorded a 274% increase in average weekly viewership over a span of just four months.

When Viu first launched, we recognised that Korean content would resonate well with our markets. We worked with Korea’s top five producers: SBS, KBS, MBC, CJ E&M, and JTBC to secure Korean entertainment content. We made sure to make updated content available with local language subtitles, as soon as within four hours of broadcast in Korea. In a survey we conducted, we found that 80% of our users who stream TV series watch some Korean content. And so we make sure that we cater to their viewing needs by continuing with these partnerships to bring quality Korean content to them.

Our Viu Original series has also performed well for us. We found that more than 50% of the viewers that are consuming our content are watching or have watched our own Viu Original series, for example, Pretty Little Liars, which is an Indonesian adaptation of the popular American series.

We also have other Asian content such as Chinese, Japanese, and Thai on Viu. We worked with various local content suppliers to offer local content in respective markets. In 2021, we expect to offer even more Asian premium content and Viu Originals and we are confident that we will continue to provide the best content to our Viu-ers.

Content strategy for 2021:

Our content strategy, investment, and decision making for our core audience are driven by a strong understanding and insight into consumers’ entertainment preferences in local markets, market knowledge of local and international content, long and stable relationships with content owners in the ecosystem, as well as data analytics of the usage and behavior of our users.

Looking ahead to 2021, we believe that a balance of acquiring content as well as producing original content is the key to continue providing our viewers with diversified and entertaining content. We firmly believe that operating locally with global expertise is key, helping us become a leading pan-regional OTT platform in Greater Southeast Asia. We plan to continue investing in content whether it is in the form of acquisition or our Viu Original productions, as we believe in constantly bringing premium, unique content to our Viu-ers that is culturally relevant and caters to their interests.

Bilibili

Bilibili Spokesperson

On content trends of 2020 vs 2021:

The synergy between Bilibili’s Professional User-Generated Videos (PUGV) and Occupationally-Generated Videos (OGV) has been greatly enhanced in 2020. Bilibili, which is a leading online entertainment platform for young people in China, and unlike other streaming platforms, 92% of our views come for PUGV. The remaining 8% of total views are from OGV content (including but not limited to animation series, documentaries, variety shows, drama series, or classic films.) Another major difference between Bilibili and other platforms is that it has a highly engaged or interactive online community.

As a result, a new content consumption dynamic is increasingly visible where Bilibili content creators, otherwise known as “uploaders,” create derivative videos on popular OGVs. Viewers who are fans of a certain OGV content will often watch related videos from uploaders and interact with other fans as well as the uploaders themselves. This is a great way to expand the influence of OGV. On the other hand, our choices of OGV on Bilibili are largely informed and guided by our PUGV ecology. We select OGV content that has the potential to “grow” in our community.

An example of this is the online reality show Rap for Youth, which has amassed over 380 million views since its launch on 22 August. Rappers in the show focus on social issues such as school and online bullying, sexual harassment, juvenile detention, and aging. Rap for Youth inspired Bilibili content creators to join the discourse, creating rap videos, although few of them rarely dab in the music genre.

exam king bilibili
‘The Exam King’ celebrated the rite of passage for Chinese students who completed the National College Entrance Examination. Courtesy of Bilibili.

Popular Bilibili uploaders, OldTOMATO (老番茄) and Mou Huan Jun (某幻君) released the rap video “The Exam King” on the last day of China’s National College Entrance Examination. The video celebrated the completion of the once-in-a-lifetime experience and painful rite of passage for Chinese students, garnering over 8.6 million views.

Content strategy for 2021:

We plan to invite more professional teams to join Bilibili as we continue to produce original content. In addition, Bilibili will also be more open to collaborating with suitable partners in our production efforts.

Read part two here.