Kevin Mayer, Chairman, Direct to Consumer & International, The Walt Disney Company

Feature

Disney boss issues clear commandment for Asia: Take local TV and move it over the top "in a very substantial way".

APRIL 2019: Disney's new mandate for Southeast Asia is clear: Take local television and move it over the top "in a very substantial way," Kevin Mayer, Disney's chairman, direct to consumer and international, said during Media Partners Asia (MPA) APOS event in Bali at the end of April.

Basically, the commandment is to take the Star India/Hotstar direct-to-consumer model crafted for India on the road across the rest of the region. 

A gigantic challenge. Lots of questions. Few specific answers about the Asia business right now. 

Except for this one: How important is the [Asia-Pacific] region to Disney now? Mayer's answer was super-specific.

"Super-important," he said. "Asia is one of the growth drivers," he added, describing Star India as the "crown jewel" in the 21st Century Fox acquisition, and Indian streaming platform Hotstar as a "juggernaut".  

What about Disney's commitment to investing in local content in Asia outside of India? 

In his big-picture answer, Mayer said if Disney was "going to be a big player" not only in India but throughout Asia, "local content is crucial. You have to have that as the substrate that we build upon to grow not only our direct-to-consumer businesses but also our traditional businesses".

Using India as an example, Meyer talked about Star India's over the top business built on top of the "biggest traditional television player in India".

In March, Hotstar drove over 300 million monthly active users. "That's quite substantial obviously," he said, adding that Hotstar was "up there with YouTube and any of the other big digital players" (no info on paying subscribers).  

And one out of every four hours of television viewing in India is delivered via Star television networks, "so that's the type of model that we would love to see  elsewhere throughout Asia".

He acknowledged market differences, but said "we can take that sort of model - local traditional television, moving over the top in a very substantial way and we can create that model throughout Southeast Asia and we would be quite pleased".

How much will Disney commit to local content in Asia outside of India to drive that dream? Not so clear.  

If Mayer's broad support for local content was unequivocal, Disney pretty much starts from scratch on local originalsand will have to stand in line on third party acquisitions. 

The question, "What local original content?", is pretty easy to answer: not a lot. At least not on the premium end.

In Disney's premium originals war chest right now are a few Chinese series – including financial thriller "The Trading Floor", Hong Kong crime drama "Stained" and a slate of films with Singapore-based MM2 – out of Cora Yim's production unit at the former Fox Networks Group. A theatrical feature, "Maledicto", out of Jude Turcuato's Fox Philippines office. "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" with Astro in Malaysia. A Rogue One #createcourage short/promo with Globe in the Philippines in 2016 was watched about 8.6 million times on YouTube, but that might not be exactly what Disney+ (or whatever the local platform will be called) is going for. There was an original series or two (or a few) out of Maker Studios in Singapore that disappeared. If they are still around, can anyone tell me where?

Disney is not alone in its great new turbo'ed local content agenda, Asia's production industry has issues of its own in servicing wild demand, and there are bidding wars all over the place for local libraries. And that is a story for another day...     

Published on 29 April 2019