How many home-grown original stories could US$1 billion buy in Asia?

How many home-grown original stories could US$1 billion buy in Asia?

Who knows for sure. Whatever the answer, the forecasts for how much OTT/streaming/online platforms will contribute a year to content spend in Asia are, to borrow a description from the dictionary of start-up culture, ‘awesome’ for the local content business.

Okay, so it’s still only 17%-ish of the US$6 billion (some analysts say it’s closer to US$7 billion) Netflix says it will spending on original content this year. And it’s not clear how much of the US$1 billion will be spent on original production. But I’ve never been one to look at half-full glass and call it empty. Let's just say this: there's a lot more money going into Asian content than there used to be, and that's a good news story.  

These are some of the numbers crunched by Asia-based analysts/research company, Media Partners Asia (MPA): Asia’s video industry will by the end of this year spend more than US$3.6 billion on content (excluding sports). About US$3.2 billion of that is television spend, primarily free-to-air with some pay-TV. The rest is from OTT/streaming services, which have brought in new content spend of US$400 million.

Over the next five years, as content spend in the region rises above US$4 billion, most of the growth will be driven by OTT/streaming platforms. Television spend will be flat to down, MPA research shows.

The good news for content owners is that “OTT dollars are definitely flowing,” MPA executive director Vivek Couto says, predicting that the OTT content investment pie in Asia could potentially top US$1 billion a year over the next five years. 

Local producers in Asia have, clearly, been feeling the love as streaming platforms ramp up their original slates. 

They include Indonesia’s Screenplay Productions and Singapore-based regional producer Coconuts Media. Both are part of emerging markets streaming platform iflix’s expanding band of brothers creating everything from feature films and series remakes of big-brand movies to hyper-local stand-up comedy formats and factual shows shining a light on offbeat Asian stories no one else is finding/covering. 

iflix’s global head of commissioning, Mark Francis, has spent a year crafting a cutting edge and hyper-local slate, with “a commercial imperative to challenge the status quo”, beginning with Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia. He’s put as much distance as he can between iflix and sausage-factory TV drama designed to fill voracious broadcast schedules with bad habits such as writing scripts on Monday and shooting on Wednesday.   

Netflix also has like a million new best friends as it ramps up its Asian originals, including Chinese-language jailbreak thriller with a supernatural twist, Bardo, out of Taiwan with IFA Media; Korean scripted originals Kingdom from A Story and webtoon-based series Love Alarm, along with Korean variety show Busted! with Company SangSang; and three originals – Sacred GamesSelection Day and Again – out of India. And that's just for starters. “We’re at the beginning of our journey in Asia,” says Erika North, who joined Netflix’s international originals and content team in Asia at the end of last year.  

PCCW Media’s Viu, meanwhile, hung up a welcome banner for creators and their ideas during this year’s ContentAsia Summit, in Singapore last month (September 2017). Digital media senior vice president, Helen Sou, outlined the “laboratory concept”, including new kinds of partnerships and creative relationships underpinning originals development. These include the Viu Female Story Festival with award-winning Indonesian director Nia Dinata.  

Meanwhile, Singtel/Sony/Warner JV platform, HOOQ, has a slate of originals and a brand new chief content officer, Jennifer Batty, more likely to build on it than not. 

Then there are the traditional players ramping up their games in a big way on an expanded field. Like HBO Asia, which will unveil its 2018 slate in November. And like Sony Pictures Television Networks Asia, which supersized its originals this year, led by season two of Asia’s Got Talent. And like Disney, which just premiered its first local version of Club Mickey Mouse.  

To return to my original question: How many home-grown originals can US$1 billion buy? A lot. But maybe an equal, if not more important, question is: How many fans will gather around home-grown Asian content? Our bet: A lot more.  


This article was originally published in the October 2017 print issue for MIPCOM 2017 in Cannes and TIFFCOM 2017 in Tokyo