Magazine article Screen International

'Golden Age of Television' Reaches Asia

Magazine article Screen International

'Golden Age of Television' Reaches Asia

Article excerpt

Driven by players such as Fox Networks Group, HBO, Amazon and Netflix, the ambitions for premium drama series in Asia are starting to match other parts of the world.

Over the past few months, it's become increasingly clear the 'Golden Age of Television', and the slow drift of film talents into the world of episodic drama, has also arrived in Asia.

In March, Fox Networks Group Asia (FNGA) announced it is producing two high-end, Chinese-language miniseries, joining HBO Asia, which has already rolled out several premium shows in English and Asian languages. Global streamers Amazon Prime Video and Netflix are pouring investment into drama series across Asia, as they are in other parts of the world, and regional online platforms have joined the fray with a slew of originals announced over the past few weeks.

* Read: China and Hollywood: why the romance has cooled

FNGA's miniseries include financial thriller Trading Floor, co-produced with Andy Lau's Focus Television and China's Tencent, which is currently in production, and crime thriller Stained, directed by established filmmaker and scriptwriter Patrick Kong. Fox's Asian networks group first dipped a toe into local-language production in 2012 with the 'Go Local' film production initiative, but discovered that smaller-budget Hong Kong and Taiwanese movies struggle to travel.

Neither company has so far done much with Chinese-language content -- presumably because they're not allowed to launch operations in mainland China. However, Netflix recently signed a small licensing deal with Chinese online platform iQiyi, which hinted the two companies might work together on original shows. Netflix executives were also recently in China talking to filmmakers, and, while it isn't giving anything away, Amazon surely won't be far behind.

One immediate impact of the shift towards premium drama and the accompanying budget increases is that Asian series are starting to travel around the region. Korean drama, with its competitive production budgets, relatively short seasons and marketable stars, has long drawn enthusiastic audiences throughout Asia and further afield -- but series from other territories have historically found it more difficult to break out.

Netflix and Amazon are both streaming their Asian shows in as many territories as possible. "Content availability varies by country, but our goal is to make our locally made original series available to our worldwide customer base," says Farrell. "Our kids anime series Crayon Shin-chan Gaiden has done really well in India. Certainly, as some of our big Indian originals start premiering, we expect the global audience for content from that part of the world to expand dramatically."

In addition to playing across the HBO network in Asia, HBO Asia's shows are also being distributed outside the region -- Serangoon Road was picked up by HBO Latin America and sold to Sony TV in the UK, while the second season of Halfworlds played on SBS in Australia, Shudder in the UK, Ireland and Canada, and HBO in parts of Europe. "We've also been talking about shows from all the international networks turning up on HBO in the US," says Spink. "There's recognition that, not only us, but other colleagues around the world are producing good shows and there is an outlet -- if not on the main HBO channels, then on HBO Now. …

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