HONG KONG: After an exciting, late-evening party on Tuesday on board the plush Fashion TV mega yacht docked at the Wanchai harbour, the CASBAA 07 Convention formally opened on Wednesday, October 31, sans any hangover, the focus being on content in a multi-media world.
CASBAA (Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia) Chairman Marcel Fenez, who is also Global Managing Partner, Entertainment & Media Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers, in his opener pointed out that “everything is morphing around the customer, who is increasingly pushing content providers everywhere”.
Andy Kaplan, President-International Networks, Sony Pictures Television International, in his keynote address, said that content in a multi-screen world had to follow the “3As of adopt, amortise and adapt in order to ensure that programming fits the overall brand”. He praised Disney and Discovery for having done a good job of creating and adopting successful globally relevant content.
Kaplan elaborated, “Original programme generation is a good long-term investment, but they have to be amortised. Content today has to be created for multiple platforms, at least for dual platforms, to be able to succeed.” He also emphasised on the importance of localisation, pointing out the success of Amazing Race Asia in this context. “The power of content is key across platforms,” he added.
In the first panel discussion, on ‘Content in perspective’, Laureen Ong, COO, STAR Group, observed that in a multi-media age, “localisation is a key factor, one has to look at content that weaves into the local fabric. That’s how STAR succeeded in a key market like India.”
Chris Kuelling, VP, Licensing & Distribution, EchoStar Global, held that increasingly appointment viewing was becoming the norm. “Watch it when you want to watch it is the new paradigm being brought about by DVR,” he said.
Kuelling and fellow panellists Olivier Laouchez, Chairman & CEO, Trace TV, and Sean Cohan, SVP, International A&E Television Networks, were of the opinion that content on mobile devices posed a significant challenge to linear television because of certain advantages like “immediacy and instant transmission”.
Ong, however, insisted that content was a “matter of packaging an experience, therefore, linear television remains strong as ever.” More importantly, she said, content providers would have to figure out appropriate ways to monetise content on mobile TV and Internet video.
Asian programming came in for scrutiny in the discussion on ‘The Asian TV tiger’. The sentiment was that while content from Asia had been fairly successful, a clear recipe for success and relevance needed to be found in a multi-cultural international market. Bharat Ranga, President, Zee International Business, while mentioning that the Zee was the most widely present Indian network in international markets – some 200 million viewers abroad – pointed out that lack of research on views abroad was a major problem. “Why should Asian content target only Asians living outside the continent? Quality content is not enough. To be more effective in international markets, content providers from Asia need to know consumer preferences in the different markets. We have to know who is watching, what they are watching.”
David Justin, CEO, Globecast Asia, held that the recipe for success was “a great idea that can be taken to other countries and which has relevance cutting across cultural differences”. Taking an instance, he said a particular production house had pitched 18 one-hour episodes on Shanghai. “How does one sell that to an international audience?” he asked incredulously.
Michael McKay, Executive Producer of AXN’s Amazing Race Asia, said that localisation to make content relevant to a cross-cultural international audience was a key to make successful content for a wider international audience.
The panel on ‘Investment in content’ came up with the interesting view that it was indeed a risky business. “Content creation is still a risky business. Fragmentation and too much content remain a big challenge,” observed Bhupesh Gupta, MD, Media, Communications & Entertainment, GE Commercial. While viewership for cricket had achieved critical mass in India, other markets in Asia were still searching for similar critical mass, he added.
His co-panelists, Chuck McElroy of China Network Systems, and Yew Ming Lau of Turner International Asia Pacific, commented that nobody in the business was “sure about the future of mobile content”. While the technology is there, the new platforms have brought about a serious tech versus content debate.