Not many deals at Asia TV fest, but region hot

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SINGAPORE -- The three-day Asia Television Forum wrapped with only a handful of deals announced and a couple of government-level agreements that were thin on details.

But organizers reported record attendance and said that the value of business done during the three days ending Friday had surpassed last year's $47 million by the end of the second day.

Distributors reported brisk interest out of Asia, including rising demand for formats in China, a new taste for on-demand film titles from the 1930s and '40s in South Korea and increasing requests for digital content rights in Taiwan.

In the run-up to the Christmas season, Endemol Southeast Asia, Granada International, FremantleMedia Enterprises and Comcast International Media Group also said that 2007 had been a very good year in Asia.

"This has been our best year ever in Asia by far," Endemol Southeast Asia managing director Ed Sharples said.

Endemol has 16 programs running in Vietnam, six in the Philippines, five in Malaysia and two in Indonesia.

Traditional TV still was the primary driver, but VOD was "the icing on the cake," Granada International regional director James Ross said.

FremantleMedia Enterprises Asia vp Ganesh Rajaram said he had reported record sales in the region in the past two years.

FremantleMedia headed to the three-day market with deals for 1,200 hours already completed with broadcasters across Asia, including TVB and ATV in Hong Kong and ABS-CBN in the Philippines.

And while stations kept a close eye on the writers strike, U.S. companies said there had been no negative impact on sales in Asia. "Buyers still want the shows whenever they are produced," said Greg Johnson, vp sales at Disney ABC International Television (Asia Pacific).

U.K. distributors like All3Media international sales vp Stephen Driscoll said that buyers were requesting reality shows as part of their strike contingency plans.

Format rights-holders reported brisk business and said that the value of the consultancy that goes with legitimate formats was kicking in after years of ripoffs.

This was particularly noticeable in China, said Ross and Julian Curtis, 2WayTraffic senior sales manager for Asia.

Call TV was one of the topics of the week for first-time ATF participant 2WayTraffic, which is setting up a regional headquarters in Asia in the next six months.

Game show distributors said Vietnam remains the region's top game show market by volume, though that is expected to taper off next year.

The game show glut will give way to a rise in drama exposure on primetime schedules in 2008, said Ngo Bich Hanh, vp sales and acquisitions at Vietnam Media.

Vietnamese free-TV station VTV3, for example, is cutting its two-hour primetime game show block in half next year to make way for drama, she said.

Meanwhile, the increasing number of niche channels in Asia, such as Velvet and Maxx in the Philippines, is driving acquisitions, said Matt Creasey, director of sales and distribution at Endemol.

"There's a lot more interest in finished product this year than there was last year," he said.

About 445 buyers attended the Asia Television Forum, including 72 new acquisition executives, according to organizers Reed Exhibitions Singapore.
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