ContentAsia’s Formats Outlook 1H2018

Thailand streaked past Vietnam as Asia’s most vibrant formats market in the first half of this year, with great game in game shows and a strong grasp on reality. The biggest losers across the six months were China and Vietnam. The highlight was Viu’s entry into big-budget scripted formats.

Thailand drew ahead of Vietnam as Asia’s formats leader in the first half of this year with a 26% increase in the number of formats on air, in production or commissioned for broadcast in 2018/9. While the shift in fortunes is a significant win for Thailand, it also heralds a major retreat in Vietnam, traditionally Asia’s highest volume formats market.

Overall, the formats acquisition business in the region shrank by 12%, from 285 titles in the first six months of 2017 to 251 this year. Of the 15 countries covered in our study, eight were down, five were up and two (Singapore and Sri Lanka) were level with last year.

Regional formats were also down from five last year (“Asia’s Got Talent” 2 and 3, “Asia’s Next Top Model” 5, the first edition of “Say Yes to the Dress” and “How Do I Look? Asia” 3) as some regional networks pressed pause on larger original production initiates. The three regional titles on our radar this year include “Asia’s Got Talent” 3 for Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia and “The Bridge” for Hong Kong telco PCCW’s regional streaming player Viu.

Viu’s entry into big-budget premium scripted formats with the first Asian version of Endemol Shine’s European drama format was a highlight during the six months. The 10-episode crime thriller series, produced by Malaysia’s Double Vision, airs on Viu later this year.

After Vietnam, the other big formats loser in the first half of this year was China, which dipped from 39 titles in the first half of last year to 23. This comes as little surprise, considering harsh regulations that have hobbled foreign rights holders’ ambitions. But the number could be misleading. Given that “formats” has become something of a dirty word, the new password for access to China is “co-development” with a view to the balance of IP power shifting towards domestic producers. This means rights holders of shows that might previously have been listed as formats are taking the pragmatic route and shying away from the label.

But while activity has dropped, there’s also no question that mainland China is still home to major co-development projects. Just look at what FremantleMedia China is doing with mega talent show, “World’s Got Talent”, which is gathering acts from around the world. Japanese broadcasters such as Nippon TV and Fuji TV have a growing production/co-development presence in China. And Endemol Shine China pulled off a scripted coup with sci-fi drama Humans in partnership with Huace Film & TV’s production house, Croton Media.

“Humans China” is the first Asia version of Endemol Shine’s scripted format, set in 2035 when must-have gadgets are human-like robotic servants and artificial intelligence has infiltrated every aspect of life to dramatic and sometimes sinister effect. The extended scripts were developed by Chinese and U.K. writers.  Endemol Shine will distribute the Chinese version internationally, fulfilling another wish on China’s list – international expansion and profile. And in that, China takes an absolute lead.