Singapore: The Monte Carlo of Asia

By Lucy Cohen

The 2005 Asia TV Forum (ATF), which also encompasses the Asia Film Market & Conference and Asia Animation Conference, saw some major increases in sales activities this year -- from U.S.$21 million in 2004 to $32.7 million in 2005. The market, which was organized by Reed Exhibitions, hosted by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA) and ran from November 30-December 2 at the Shangri-La Hotel in Singapore, saw 200 international sellers from 29 countries and 450 buyers from 28 countries, all convening in and around hotel suites.

Paul Ridley
Paul Ridley, vp, Sales, Asia Pacific at Fremantle International Distribution

Besides the central location, attendees raved about the intimate nature of the market (especially in comparison to other Reed Markets, such as MIP-TV and MIPCOM) -- it reminded many of the now-defunct Monte Carlo TV Market. "It's a more personal market, because of the whole hotel suite format," said Fremantle's Ridley and Rajaram. "You tend to have a lot more time with clients as they are not too frantic running from stand to stand. It's also a more relaxed setting where clients, like sellers, are winding down for the year." They continued, "It also seems a lot more festive, as Christmas is [in] the air and the whole town is dressed up."

Helena Bernardi, director of Marketing and Sales at Globo TV International, said, "ATF has its own pace and is mainly a market to develop a long term relationship with potential clients. It's also a place to have appointments with clients from local and regional channels that usually don't go to major markets such as MIPCOM."

Danielle O'Shea, Sales manager at London-based 3DD Entertainment, seconded that: "Because it's so small, you really get to see everyone.   I didn't have any meetings I thought were a waste of time," she said. "It is well-targeted, and overall, much more focused than the other Reed markets."

Christine Fellowes, managing director, Asia, E! Networks, also recognized that at the Asia TV Forum, every moment is valuable: "Unlike MIP-TV, there are [fewer] buyers wandering around the suites and dropping in."

E!'s Fellowes also predicted that she'll bring more colleagues with her next year. "Our regional head of sales, Mike Mendelsohn and I took meetings at ATF. We were both fully booked and I imagine we'll continue to increase our presence at this market in the future," she said.

This year's ATF saw an increase in Asian distributors, as well as the presence of heavyweight studios such as CBS Paramount International Television, NBC Universal, Sony Pictures Television International and more.

And, when it came to buyers, a new contingent of channels from Japan, Macau, Bangladesh, Vietnam and India were in attendance. "Areas where things seem to be picking up are Indo-China (territories like Vietnam and Cambodia), Sri Lanka and China," said Fremantle's Ridley and Rajaram.

But, Ridley and Rajaram added that, because Fremantle not only sells U.S. and U.K. product to Asia, but is also a regional supplier of indigenous programs, they are generally able to reach almost every territory within Asia.

3DD's O'Shea attended the market three years ago, and said that, compared to then, there has been a noticeable change in the concentration of buyers. "It was a good market for reaching smaller territories. We are starting to do some good business with territories like Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka." She explained that the ATF is sometimes the only forum in which to meet with certain clients: "It can be a real struggle for representatives from these countries to come to MIPCOM or MIP-TV." O'Shea continued, "It's nice to see these smaller territories coming on their own to do their own individual deals, rather acting as tack-ons to the larger countries, like Hong Kong and China, the way it used to be."

E!'s Fellowes said that while each of the Asian territories -- divided into South Asia, East Asia, South East Asia and Oceania --   represent healthy business, "East Asia [which includes China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan] is E! Networks' largest territory, driven by massive growth from Korea. The value of our programming has sky-rocketed in Korea, and there is a large demand for quality entertainment news and programming as the popularity of Hollywood continues to increase. Style Network programming has also been booming with a surge in interest in fashion brands, home decorating and Western lifestyles."

While the vast size (and ethnic and linguistic diversity) of the Asian territories would seem to cater to localized programs and the sales of formats rather than finished programming, all of the executives interviewed for this story reported that their finished products were all the rage this year.

E!'s Fellowes admitted that "with reality programming it is important that audiences can relate to the real people featured and the situations they face." She added, "With Style Network, there is an opportunity to develop local versions of the channel, as we have done in Indonesia, with local hosts and programming." But, Fellowes said, "Our meetings were mostly about finished programming from E!, Style, Outdoor Life and G4."

O'Shea said she didn't see ATF as the kind of market where deals are done on the spot, "there are output deals that are now underway as a result of the market."

Globo, on the other hand, celebrated some major deals at the market. "We celebrated the premiere of our acclaimed children's

program Pirlimpimpim to the Indonesian channel LATIVI," said Helena Bernardi. The show premiered on December 20th and will air on weekend mornings. Previously, Pirlimpimpim was sold to the Philippines, and a special program about Rio de Janeiro's Carnival was sold to Indonesia.

Another noteworthy deal signed at the market itself was a film cooperation between the Korean Film Council of the Republic of Korea and the MDA -- the first of its kind between the two countries -- which will bring the two countries together to exchange expertise and producers between the two regions.

During the market, production pitches took place as well. The ATF Superpitch Award was presented to Panopticon Productions from Singapore, for a production entitled Happy Birthday Godzilla! , which was chosen from six finalists. The Animation Superpitch's winning entry was El Mariachi , by Studio Moshi from Australia.

Next year's edition of the market will be held November 29-December 1, 2006.