Formats Outlook: 1H 2019 vs 2018

Asia’s formats market has shrunk in pure numbers. But not every market in the region is in decline, a few key players are driving unprecedented levels of activity in, for instance, scripted development, co-development is trending, and a watchful eye is being kept on regional/global streamers appetite for unscripted IP acquisitions.

Asia’s formats story for the first half of this year seems grim. About 11% down overall on last year to 223 titles/seasons either or air or commissioned by broadcasters or platforms, according to ContentAsia’s latest Formats Outlook. And last year’s 251 were 12% down on the same six months in 2017, for a total drop of 22% over the past two years. That’s 62 fewer series this year than we counted two years ago. 

What’s going on? A lot of things, including a shift towards home-grown originals that might, like the Zense Entertainment/NBCUniversal co-developed Singer Auction in Vietnam, begin to travel; for our purposes, formats are not included in our data until they have been sold outside their home market. 

With the exception of Sony Pictures Television’s AXN, which continues to drive ratings and engagement through shows like Asia’s Got Talent and The Amazing Race Asia, big-budget regional formats (actually, make that even medium-budget) have fallen off a cliff, victims of a range of ills, some self-inflicted. So those numbers are down from five in 2017 to one this year. 

Regional streamers may pick up where regional pay-TV broadcasters dropped off. PCCW Media’s Viu, for instance, adapted The Story Lab’s youth-focused No Sleep No Fomo, which streamed across Asia earlier this year. iflix streamed a version of Complex/First We Feast’s interview format, Hot Ones, across its markets. No word on any other unscripted regional projects but it’s a space to watch. 

The good/best news is that the interest in drama adaptation in Asia is at a record high, with much of the new activity powered by India. This drama turbo charge is not so much about competition/game show fatigue (although there is some of that) as it is about building IP with a lifespan and value beyond the 20 minutes after the winner is announced.      

Looking at pure numbers, Vietnam dived, shaving 15 format titles off its 1H 2019 number compared to 2018, which was 15 shows down on 2017 for a total loss of 30 titles in two years. 

But it remains the second biggest formats acquisitions/adaptations market by number, with 37 titles in the first half of this year. Thailand tops this year’s 1H list with 45, down from last year’s 53 but still up from 2017’s 42 (see chart on page 26).    

Vietnam led the overall slide in the first half of this year compared to last year, followed by Thailand (8 titles down) and then Cambodia (6 titles down).

The three markets that were up in the first six months of this year compared to last year were led by Indonesia (+7), India (+4) and Singapore (+1). All three were at least level, if not up, on 2017 as well.   

Of the 15 markets plus regional Asia that we cover for the Formats Outlook, nine were down, and four – China, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Taiwan – were unchanged in 1H 2019 from last year.

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Published in ContentAsia Issue Four 2019, 26 August 2019