December 2014
Volume 34 No. 7

December 2014
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Asian Buyers Can’t Resist ATF’s Siren Call

By Sara Alessi

The organizers of Asia TV Forum and Market (ATF) are trying all expedients to make the event Southeast Asia’s premier TV trade show. In a sense, Reed Exhibitions, the event organizer, has succeeded. Indeed, Peggy Tong, program manager of Hong Kong’s TVBI, sees ATF’s venue as very convenient and the market as the “biggest compared to other [content] markets in Asia.”

Only a few distributors exhibiting at past editions of ATF, which this year takes place December 9-12 at the usual Sands Expo in Singapore (pictured on the home page), have indicated some disappointment with content sales. This is despite great participation, at least officially, of buyers from the Southeast Asian region, comprising 52 percent of the total 800 acquisitions executives in attendance, with an additional 35 percent coming from North Asian territories and just seven percent from South Asia.

With the help of the powerful and influential Media Development Authority (MDA), Singapore’s city-state marketing and promotion agency, ATF is intended as the key attraction among a group of other media events, such as ScreenSingapore, the Asia Television Awards and Singapore International Film Festival, all of which increase the number of participants, though not necessarily the type of buyers needed by all exhibitors.

According to official reports, to accommodate the increased participation, the ATF exhibition area is now moving from the traditional ground level to the fifth floor of the Sands. Similarly, the hospitality suites (rented mostly by the U.S. studios) are moving from the third floor to the fifth floor, while the conferences, typically held on the third floor, will move to the fourth floor. This arrangement will save organizers some money, but it could create bottleneck at the escalator banks.

Understandably, ATF is very popular with local program distributors. Fiona Chu, president of Singapore’s Antares International Media commented, “ATF is the right market to access SEA territories. I have attended ATF for eight years as a buyer and a seller. It’s the market to meet buyers, especially from Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand.”

Recently, the ATF organizers have turned to sister company Reed MIDEM for some help with MIPAcademy, a conference for format experts, while ATF has developed the Animation Lab for animation producers and ScreenSingapore will coordinate one seminar on December 10.
Overall, more than 4,300 participants are expected for the 15th annual ATF event. They hail from 60 countries to mingle with more than 590 exhibiting companies, most of which are part of the 16 pavilions.

On top of that, ATF is an efficient and well-organized event with many conferences and seminars, and it offers a one-stop shop for small content distributors who cannot afford the cost or take the time to travel across a vast Pacific Ocean area (for example, it’s an eight-hour flight to reach Singapore from seemingly nearby Tokyo). But still, some distributors, after giving ATF a try, have returned to personal visits to clients in the region.

Pinpointing exactly what is needed to make ATF a complete success — as it deserves to be — is difficult because all the right elements seem to fall into place. And even if FTA and pay-TV sales in Asia are not fruitful for independent companies because of output deals with the big studios, digital rights are in demand for the region’s highly developed online streaming video services. But Multicom’s Irv Holender cautioned, “digital rights are not yet enough to replace falling traditional TV sales.”

It is possible that the large number of seminars keep participants off the market floor, rendering it uncrowded, even though meetings are taking place in the booths. Another possibility is that many Asian TV buyers may prefer to use their travel time to visit Cannes for MIP-TV and MIPCOM (at times, it takes the same number of hours to go to Europe as it does to travel within the region).

One aspect of the market that needs to be analyzed is the low advertising and market resources many exhibitors reserve for the ATF. Motives vary, but the often-cited reason is that the “market is too small,” and that it’s preferable to save the budget for NATPE or MIP-TV.

Nevertheless, there are many good reasons to attend ATF. Caroline Edwards, VP of International Television Distribution, Asia Pacific Region at MGM really values the fact that, “it is a little slower and more relaxed than MIPCOM, which means we can have longer meetings with our clients.” She also likes the fact that, “it is focused exclusively on the Asia-Pacific region, so it is much more specific than many other markets.”

Estefanía Arteaga of Caracol explained, “ATF is one of our key markets because ATF does a great job of covering all the key Asian territories for us; we’ve been able to tap into untapped markets by attending.” Arteaga noted that many of the deals closed at ATF are ones whose negotiations began at other markets or via email or phone, emphasizing the value of meeting with clients face-to-face in a market setting.

9 Story Media Group attended ATF for the first time last year, and returns this year. Federico Vargas described ATF as, “a very strong market for us. Asia [is] a key growth area for our company and we are allocating additional resources towards developing this important territory. ATF allows us to forge relationships with new buyers while also providing an additional touch point with existing ones.”

Patrick Elmendorff of Studio 100 Media stated that ATF is a vital market because it is a place where the company can meet with “a number of broadcasters who don’t go to MIP-TV or MIPCOM.” While he noted that Studio 100 partakes both in ATF and individual office visits throughout Asia, ATF is a market where the company can do business on a global scale, and the company is present at the market with two delegates on the distribution side. He also noted that in past years Studio 100 has revived classic brands such as Heidi, Maya The Bee and Vic The Viking, and these brands do very well in Asia.

Hyeonza Hong, senior vice president of Sales, Asia, at ITV Studios Global Entertainment, appreciates the regional focus, saying, “The ATF market is a great opportunity for us to meet all our Southeast Asian clients at one time and in the same place.” Hong also values the timing, noting, “Holding the market in December allows us to get a good feel for the market dynamics in the coming year.” This is a sentiment echoed by MGM’s Edwards, who sees the timing as ideal since “it means we can progress any discussions started at MIPCOM and set up deals for the new year.”