Last week’s Asia Side of the Doc was a memorable event.
- Senior-level decision-makers attended.
- There were lots of involved delegates from across the region.
- The backdrop was a huge city that is still reeling from last year’s catastrophes.
Here are my “Big Five” Takeaways:
- The “Tohoku Pitch” was a day of doc pitches by producers from the region that was hit hardest by the tsunami.
- Story after story addressed devastating loss and the will to recover.
- I recalled over and over again the suffering of our Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood after 9/11 – struck that Japan’s catastrophe was of a much larger scale.
- We were all pleased to see that several of pitches appealed to France Televisions, Germany’s Autentic and others.
2. Japan’s Insularity
- We heard that the 1-2-3 hit of earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima has challenged Japan’s decades-long inward trend.
- Networks, stations and producers all said that they are eager to find new ways of telling stories.
- They are open to new production models and new partners.
3. NHK / France Televisions
- Two distant public broadcasters have committed themselves to a long-term copro relationship.
- The Case Studies that they presented were fascinating. Congrats!!
4. Asia is Thriving!
- The 2011 boom in the Asian TV market continues.
- Western players like Discovery, Nat Geo, A+E and the BBC are expanding their footprints.
- Some are replacing their pan-regional feeds with local channels that target newly viable markets.
- Taiwan is a good example.
- This creates opportunities for local Taiwanese producers
- But budgets are very slim!
- At the same time, regional and local players are looking across their borders while attempting to fill any vacant niches for channels.
- I was forcefully reminded that ‘Asia’ is a vast region that is deeply divided by language, culture, economic development, regulation, creative tastes and much, much more.
- The channels that are succeeding – like Discovery and Nat Geo – are pursuing a ‘guerrilla’ model that is dedicated to racking up small victories in distribution and programming. (Admission: I worked on the pre-launch business plan for Discovery Asia.)
- The frontal assault of the North American multichannel model doesn’t work!
5. China: “Watch out for the hype!”
- 2011 was touted as the ‘The Year of the Documentary’
- But China is still an emerging television market.
- There is a thin but expanding cadre of experienced and talented doc producers.
- They are centered on CCTV and the doc channels offered by regional governments.
- The Online channel universe feels like a chaotic free-for-all.
- A Westerner who is committed to factual co-production in China said, “We’re patiently waiting for the right project. And we turn down a lot of the wrong ones. We’re prepared for a long wait.”
- Congrats to Keiko Bang and Yves Jeanneau who are the organizers of ASD, their teams, hosts and sponsors.
- It was a very special honor to participate in the “Year of the Tohoku Pitch.”
- Photos: Mike Lee, Bang Productions Seoul.