Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Eastern promise for formats

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast November 08, 2012

Localised shows are proving a success in Asia, says Kate Bulkley

Being in Hong Kong last week for a couple of conferences was, as always, an eye-opener. Despite the Halloween-day shocker that Panasonic expects a $10bn loss this year (mostly due to big-screen TVs commoditising, meaning prices are falling), the message I took away from Asian pay-TV conference Casbaa was relatively upbeat.

Not only did I talk to new pay-TV operators from Burma and Mongolia, but the amount of chat about Vietnam suggests it is a country to watch.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s dominant pay-TV operator Astro raised $1.5bn in its IPO last month. The share price has seen some softening since then, but this seems more a case of a rich price-to-earnings ratio rather than a fundamental business case problem.

At the Formats Asia market, which was set up by ex-ITV Asia exec James Ross, who now runs consul- tancy Lightening International, the talk was about how formats are becoming more successful, thanks to them being localised for Asian tastes and an easing of government concerns.

One example is The Voice China, where local rules against both ‘excessive entertainment’ and competitions mean there is no public voting, and the emphasis is on celebrating singing and Chinese culture, not on making ‘superstars’. But you will recognise the big red judges’ chairs and, at a cost of $10m, the show is very slick and stands out against lower-quality copycat shows, of which there are still many in China.

In fact, Ben Silverman, chief executive of Electus, announced his first format sale into China – rumoured to be Fashion Star. “Prior to this, we would watch our formats being made there and we wouldn’t be participating,” said Silverman, obliquely referring to IP theft.

Silverman wouldn’t confirm which format, not because the deal wasn’t done, but because (with reason) he’s worried about giving a head start to the copycats.

So there is still a way to go in China, but perhaps the most interesting development about The Voice China is its pioneering financial model. It is structured as an ad revenue share between broadcaster Zhe Jiang TV and China Media Capital, the joint venture company 47% owned by News Corp’s Star China Media. Averaging 150 million viewers across 14 episodes, the show achieved three times above the agreed rating, at which point the revenue share deal kicked in.

Flush from its success, CMC is negoti- ating for a new season and is also looking at possible drama projects as well as ‘on-the-ground events’ such as the China Music Awards, now in its 16th year on CMC-owned Channel V. Asians are very much into brands and good-looking people, and the property market in many parts of the continent is still buoyant, hence The Apartment. It’s a property makeover show that is also, bizarrely, a personal makeover show. Created by Singapore’s Imagine Group for Fox’s Star World, The Apartment features eight couples who can win a dream home of their own creation while they also work on their looks.

It is, in effect, two shows in one, but the sponsors like it and it hits the key 18 to 34 year-old female.

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