India, China, Malaysia boost Asia's MIPTV presence

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CANNES -- Annual programming mart MIPTV opened Monday with a sharply higher presence from India, China and Malaysia making up for dips from elsewhere in the region.

Asian distributors arrived in Cannes saying they expected the program syndication business this year to be up anywhere from 10%-100%.

About 856 companies from 12 Asian countries are exhibiting at the show, according to pre-market figures from organizers Reed Midem. Overall, this is just under 7% up on MIPTV 2006's 784 Asian exhibitors.

The highest increase comes from China, which jumped from 60 exhibitors in 2006 to about 124 this year. The 2008 Beijing Olympics was among the factors fueling China's higher profile this year, said analyst Kristian Kender from Beijing-based media research company CMMI.

Malaysian exhibitor presence more than doubled from 33 to 69 this year. India is up from 25 to 43.

The biggest dips were from Japan and South Korea. Vietnam dropped off the exhibitor map entirely from six last year.

Broadcasters and distributors are optimistic about the impact of the boom in new channels and digital distribution platforms.

These include video-on-demand in Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Korea, new regional pay TV channels from such companies as BBC Worldwide Global Channels, as well as the rise of broadband portals such as Hanaro Telecom's hanaTV in Korea, which signed up 350,000 subs in six months and is targeting 1 million users by this time next year.

The biggest impact on Hong Kong's buying habits will be the launch of digital terrestrial television at the end of the year, said Cecilia Tan, head of programming at Television Broadcasts Ltd.'s English-language Pearl channel.

New platforms are expected to add 10%-20% to the Asian business across the board, said James Ross, Granada International's Hong Kong-based regional director. The highest demand from local broadcasters was for high-end action drama and documentaries, Ross said.

From the U.K., Off the Fence expected business in Asia this year to be 100% up over last year, sales executive Rosie O'Flynn said.

Korea's apparent willingness and ability to pay top dollar for content in a fiercely competitive environment fueled by emerging digital platforms is driving much of the regional syndication business.

However, analysts warn that current content pricing levels might be unsustainable, though demand will remain high as traditional and new platforms jostle for audience share.

Already, major pay TV programmer OnMedia is planning to reduce dependence on acquired programming because of dramatically increased acquisition costs, said Vivek Couto, Hong Kong-based Media Partners Asia's research head.

"Pricing in Korea is at record levels and has to be rationalized," Couto said.

Nondomestically, Korean distributors expect regional and international sales to be up on last year.

Korean public broadcaster, Korean Broadcasting System, set sales targets of $2 million for MIPTV this year, up 43% from last year's $1.4 million. 2006's sales were up 15% over 2005, said Peter Kim, KBS spokesman and producer on the KBS global strategy team.

Deals this year were expected to be driven by demand for KBS drama, like the romantic comedy "Hello, My Lady," from China, Taiwan, Japan and Indochina, and by European buyers' appetite for Korean factual programming, Kim said.

Malaysian-based regional producer and distributor, Juita Viden, was focusing on formats that could be affordably localized "as we evolve with the demand for more local content," group executive director Peter Foo said.

Juita Viden's formats priorities are Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines and Malaysia. Foo's MIPTV shopping list also covers documentaries for China, feature films for Indonesia and Taiwan, and educational or animated series with licensing and merchandising potential.

Singapore's focus at the market is on finding co-production partners and showcasing the country's high-definition production abilities, Media Development Authority chief executive Christopher Chia said.

The MDA will lead 21 companies to MIPTV 2007 with a record showcase of more than 50 HD television and animation programs.
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