Asian Streamer Bosses On Local Growth — Filmart 

“We don’t need a lot of content, we just need lots of really good content,” Kelvin Yau, President of Asia Pacific and Marketing iQIYI, concluded when quizzed on his company’s editorial strategy during a keynote session on streaming this morning at Filmart in Hong Kong.

Yau took part in the keynote alongside fellow streaming heads Marianne Lee, Chief of Content Acquisition and Development at Viu, Jessica Kam-Engle, Executive VP and Business Head at CreAsia Studio, and Winradit Kolasastraseni, President of Digital Media at True Digital Group. 

The session was chaired by the Asia Video Industry Association CEO Louis Boswell, who began the session by noting that iQIYI, which launched in 2010 as a tech company before moving into content production, was now profitable after hitting the black in 2023. 

“It’s about putting the right resources in the right places,” Yau said. “It goes back to the whole point of being disciplined, and we had to make a lot of very difficult decisions four years ago to get profitability.” 

Yau added that iQIYI had seven of the 10 top drama series in Mainland China in 2023, and the company found that 80% of its income that year was generated from those seven shows. 

Yau’s enthusiasm for the local market was shared by Lee, who, later in the session, said the Asian market is experiencing what she described as an unprecedented period of growth and development. 

“In Asia, we’re on the up and up,” Lee said. “We’ve never been so high.”

Lee said Viu, which launched in 2015, has produced around 25 original projects in regions across Asia, including Korea, Thailand, and Indonesia. Lee highlighted one specific project during the keynote titled Private Bodyguard, a teen drama from Indonesia that she said best displayed the strength of local streaming production. 

“We only launched with three episodes, and it’s now the number-one show. But it has also helped us drive our younger download figures. The Viu app is now the number-one downloaded app in the Indonesian app store,” she said. 

“Once you have good content you can really drive viewership. That’s our principle.” 

Lee continued to say that right now the romance genre is playing well with audiences on Viu. But the company’s work, she added, has mostly been shaped by the social makeup of its audience across several regions. 

“Our audience in Southeast Asia is quite young. The median age in Indonesia is about 29, and in the Philippines is about 25. So we try to make sure the content we acquire and commission fits that.”

Bespoke commissioning was a strategy also highlighted by Kam-Engle, who recently joined Banijay-backed CreAsia Studio after holding exec positions at Disney APAC and HBO Asia. 

“I am based in Hong Kong, but the company will be where the markets are. And the main markets will be Southeast Asia, especially Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines,” she said. 

Highlighting trends she has identified recently amongst audiences and buyers, Kam-Engle said she believes the effects of several dark COVID years are still being felt in the market. 

“The last few years have been tough. Most countries just got out of COVID. People are now tending to look at things that are lighter and give some hope and escapism. Things that are too heavy may not necessarily be what people look for,” she said. 

The one buzzy market on the lips of industry folk here at Filmart is Thailand. The country’s current moment in the sun was always on the cards, according to Kolasastraseni of the Bangkok-based True Digital Group.

“Thailand has always been up there at the very top when it comes to creative talents,” Kolasastraseni said. “What we’ve realized over the last few years is we never really had proper investment from the government or the private sector.” 

“I look forward to a time when we can use AI for dubbing. The technology is still at the early stage, but with time, I’m sure we will see developments,” Lee said. 

Another growth region highlighted by the panel was artificial intelligence, which Yau described as a “huge” game changer for iQIYI’s content production and marketing efforts, while Lee said the technology could also help democratize the presentation of content across the globe. 

“I personally look forward to a time when we can use AI for dubbing. The technology is still at the early stage, but with time, I’m sure we will see developments,” Lee said. 

Filmart runs March 11 – 14. 

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