2 Feb 2017
TV Remains Dominant Platform for Multi-sourced Content Across Asia
Despite the challenge of enhanced internet access throughout most of Asia, television has retained a pivotal role, although ever more frequently it is being called upon to host content sourced through a growing variety of digital routes.
Held at the end of last year, the most recent instalment of the Asian Television Forum was the largest in the event's history. For many, this underlines the growing significance of the China, Indochina and Southeast Asia markets within the wider broadcasting world.
Three individual national markets attracted particular attention – Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar. Highlighting the particular idiosyncrasies of the Indonesian market was David Fernando Audy, President Director of Media Nusantara Citra, the Jakarta-based radio, print and broadcast conglomerate.
Outlining the singular nature of the market, he said: "Home to 260 million people, Indonesia is the fourth-most-populous country in the world. It has an average age of just 29, while the mean in most western countries is around 50. As the country consists of more than 17,000 islands, however, developing an effective internet infrastructure has been a continuing challenge.
"As a consequence, overall internet penetration remains as low as 34%. Among those connected, conflicting reports suggest that between 70% and 93% of all such access is via a smartphone. Inevitably then, television has remained the dominant medium.
"At present, the country's low – but growing – per-capita GDP has resulted in only a relatively low 7% uptake for pay TV service, while free-to-air television is still performing well and continuing to expand, with 35-year-olds and above now accounting for the largest viewer demographic. Overall, the growth of online media is yet to negatively impact on television's market share. However, print media seems to be suffering."
With responsibilities for both Thailand and Myanmar, David Peatrarut, Managing Director of Nielsen Thailand's Media Client Leadership division, said: "The typical Thai viewer now watches an average of four hours and 18 minutes of television a day. Drama is the most popular genre, accounting for 27% of all programming hours. Of these, 71% are locally-produced dramas, 14% are Korean and 6% are Chinese, with Western dramas making up just 2%.
"In terms of demographics, by 2030, 19% of all viewers will be 65% or above. This makes the market surprisingly like that of Singapore, where 23% of all viewers will be in a similar age group at that point.
"In terms of Myanmar, at the moment we track just six urban centres across the country, with television access in the more rural areas still very limited. Prime time is 6pm to 9pm, which is earlier than most markets in the region, while there is also a second, smaller prime time from noon to 2pm.
"Afternoon viewing is driven mainly by viewers aged 50 and above, while the main prime-time segment is driven largely by children. Language, though, remains a key challenge for broadcasters, with local drama dominating as programming from other Asian countries needs to be subtitled or dubbed."
Looking at the broader picture, Keri Louis Brown, Managing Director of K7 Media, a UK-based content trend analyst, maintained that the television industry was now more fragmented – yet more globalised – than at any previous time. She said: "Around the world, format creators, networks and distributors are collaborating like never before and, at the epicenter of this change, is the Asia-Pacific region. Television formats now travel further than they have ever done, leading to the sharing of expertise and the building of wholly new relationships. Inevitably, this has led to greater collaboration when it comes to co-producing formats for multiple markets. While Korea kickstarted the current trend, with such breakout hits as Grandpas Over Flowers – Better Late Than Never in the US – and, more recently, Hidden Singer and Fantastic Duo, other countries are now following.
"In terms of future hits, we have high hopes for China's Familiar Tastes, as we believe good food programmes always travel well. Then there is Vietnam's highly emotional 7th Wish, social experimentation in the form of Singapore's Man Birth and Burning Questions, a Japanese game show. Another Japanese game show worth looking out for is Hide and Seek with Drones, while Moksha – Indian TV's take on the Snakes and Ladders board game – also has considerable promise."
As to why Korean formats have travelled quite so well, DJ Lee, President of Media Content Business for CJ E&M, the Seoul-based entertainment and media content company, believes it is all down to the initial mindset. He said: "We think about the global market from the start as our local market is very limited. Overall, Korean content appeals because it is often quirky and creative and, while skewed towards younger viewers, it still appeals to a broad audience.
"With our shows, emotions are always warm and you want to sympathise with the cast, with that empathy helping us to appeal to all generations. We have taken the same approach with a number of our new shows, including I Can See Your Voice and The Society Game."
For Fontini Paraskakis, Managing Director of Amsterdam's Endemol Shine Group, good ideas can come from anywhere, not just from the Korean Peninsula. He said: "We're now looking at content from places we've never considered before and we're not finding that the most innovative ideas come from the US or Europe, especially when it comes to interactive programming. Asia is very much an untapped market in terms of content creation and we are keen to continue building a pipeline of fresh, new ideas."
In order to keep this pipeline flowing, Endemol has now opened dedicated offices in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Singapore. It has also signed an agreement with CJ E&M, with The Society Game the first fruit of its commitment to introducing Korean formats to the wider global market.
And selling formats is clearly big business. In 2016, 329 formats were sold across Asia. Vietnam was the biggest buyer, followed by China and Thailand. Of these, 69 of the deals were stuck by Endemol, making it second only to London's Freemantle Media. In simple dollar terms, China remains the biggest purchaser, though this could change in 2017 given that new regulations are in place, especially with regard to the use of Korean programming.
Looking at the younger end of the market, Adam Schoff, Vice-president of Dubit Asia Pacific, the Melbourne office of the UK-based kids entertainment consultancy, offered a number of insights into the changing nature of children's viewing habits. He said: "Six key trends are now shaping this sector. The first is saturation, which has seen children shifting from having policed and occasional access to media to having round-the-clock access. Then there is localisation, with English-language media remaining dominant, but an increasing demand for content in local languages.
"In terms of dilution, while the likes of Disney and LEGO have remained strong, other brands have lost market share to several of the more recent arrivals on the scene, notably Angry Birds and Minecraft. There has also been a marked change of format – where video games used to be dominant, now it's video-on-demand or subscription VOD. Then there is the issue of fragmentation, recognition of the fact that kids are now more than happy to search out content on YouTube and on social-media sites. Finally, many youngsters have migrated away from websites in favour of apps.
"Children these days have access to three or four screens and, as a result, there's never been this much video being consumed. In general, television is holding its own because of smart TVs, which allow media to be watched on a television regardless of the source. Traditional scheduled television, though, is declining across all age groups, particularly for sports programmes, except in the over-50s sector.
"Our survey of five markets in Asia shows that kids are now spending slightly more time online than they do watching television, with 77% of kids preferring the internet to television. Perhaps surprisingly, short form digital content is increasingly popular, while the three most common activities for kids are now watching television (77%), mobile gaming (67%), and watching internet clips (65%)."
For Byron Perry, Founder and Chief Executive of Coconuts Media, the Hong Kong-headquartered local city website network, the online space is continually evolving. Looking to pinpoint the current state of that evolution, he said: "YouTube is being disrupted by Facebook, with users consuming far more content on Facebook than they ever did before. For developers, uploading and distributing on Facebook is highly effective. Facebook is better for short play and dumbed down content, while YouTube still has huge growth potential, especially in the area of long form content."
Agreeing with Perry to a certain extent, although with one of two caveats, was Alon Shtruzman, Chief Executive of Keshet International, a Tel Aviv-based video content producer and distributor. Maintaining that television has retained its central role, he said: "Evolving technology has led to a continuous change in how we distribute and consume video. The old never dies, however, with the more established platforms simply shrinking as overall consumption grows.
"Today, YouTube is just another outlet in an ever more segmented landscape, with television remaining the flagship. People are watching Netflix, YouTube and downloads on their televisions. Telling a good story takes time and money and that will never change, while television remains the best way of telling that story."
Ronald Hee, Special Correspondent, Singapore