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THE MONTE CARLO TELEVISION FESTIVAL : An international competition, Conferences focusing on "Formats" and "Reality TV" , Special events and first-look world premiere screenings...
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The Monte Carlo Television Festival announce US Drama and Comedy nominees..
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Ted Turner to be honored for his pioneering role in global television at the 43rd Monte-Carlo Television Festival taking place in Monaco June 30- July 5, 2003
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Version Francaise

Stars of the East

Western formats such as Pop Stars, Russian Roulette, The Weakest Link and Millionaire have exploded across Asia. But, Marlene Edmunds reports, Asian programme-makers are finding it trickier to send their formats back the other way.

GAME SHOWS targeting the whole family are the border breakers in Asia, according to Sue Adams, managing director of Fremantle Productions Asia. "Asian audiences are particularly receptive to games that are point-based and offer a chance to win a prize," she adds.

In terms of formats, Adams reports that last year was Fremantle's most successful ever, with Stop The Clock, broadcast on Thailand's Channel 5, winning the Asian Television Award for Best Game Show of 2002, and the company's classic formats going from strength to strength. The Price Is Right is now airing on Indonesia's Trans TV and Thailand's Channel 5, while Family Feud is screening on IVM in Indonesia, ABC5 in the Philippines and Channel 3
in Thailand.

Fremantle also launched its first format in China. Man O Man, licensed to Star TV, has now
become one of the most popular programmes on Newscorp's Chinese mainland channel, Xing Kong. In another license deal with Star TV, Fremantle's Let's Make A Deal on Star Plus was the number-one game show in India.

Zeal Television's director of TV, Ed Sharples, says that cultural differences can make it difficult to adapt the bigger western formats, such as Big Brother, Joe Bachelor and The Chair, for Asian audiences. That said, Zeal has successfully reversioned Popstars for Star TV in India - the first major reality show in that territory.

Sharples notes that the lack of protection for intellectual property rights also makes it tough. "The tendency to borrow and adapt western formats is still strong," he says. "It's a frustrating situation. However, we hope, as markets mature, this practice will decrease."

Asia's taste for US shows has had an impact on the BBC's strategy in the region, according to Colin Jarvis, BBC Worldwide's director of programming and operations. "Asians are drawn to shows that are successful in America," he adds. "As a result, we try to get our programmes on in the US first. Then, when the interest is high enough, we go into Asia."

India's state channel, Doordarshan, was one of the first to fall for the charms of the BBC's formats, with The Weakest Link running for some 60 shows in the territory. The Beeb, which is now exporting sitcom formats such as Yes Minister and Keeping Up Appear-ances, is also in talks about adapting Mastermind for India.

Elsewhere, Sony Pictures Television International (SPTI) reports strong interest in Russian Roulette, which was recently sold to MediaCorp's Channel 8 in Singapore and NTV7 in Malaysia. The latter - the largest private commercial terrestrial outlet in Malaysia - is set to debut the game show in the third quarter.

Paul Gilbert, vice-president of international programme development and format sales, says SPTI has been most successful in Indonesia, where it has sold Russian Roulette, Date Express and Blackjack Bowling. But, Gilbert adds, although SPTI has also sold formats into Thailand, Indonesia and India, it has not, as yet, been able to crack the Chinese market.

ECM, meanwhile, has sold Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and The Weakest Link to a slew of Asian territories, and is now in the process of selling its 12 Yard formats into the region. But there is no guarantee that a format that works in one Asian terrirory will work in another, cautions Tom McClelland, ECM's general manager for Asia.

"The style and pace of Japanese television is very different from that of western and even other Asian territories," McClelland says. "For example, The Weakest Link simply didn't work in Japan. On the other hand, a lot of people thought we'd have problems with The Weakest Link in mainland China, but it did very well there -

even though the host had to adapt her style and be less aggressively personal."

To most companies, China is still Shangri La when it comes to format sales. Scandinavia's Mastiff Media - now a part of MTV Produktions - sold The Big Class Reunion to the regional terrestrial Chinese channel Hunan TV. The format's 75 episodes went on to deliver an average rating of 18%. The company's head of development, Markus Sterky, reports that Mastiff has now sold 52 episodes of The Perfect Crime to Becker Entertainment for broadcast
in Indonesia.

Robert Chua, president of Robert Chua Productions, has placed formats in China, Singapore and Hong Kong. Everyone Wins, which is airing in China on The Shanghai Oriental Arts and Entertainment Channel, is scheduled to air on MediaCorp's Channel 8 in Singapore in August and in Hong Kong later this year.

You Be The Judge, represented by Distraction Formats, has also been licensed to Singapore, as has the new reality format Street Smart. Chua is also introducing several new formats at Monte Carlo, including Ideal Family, Sportfusion and Phone-In Karaoke.

Few Asian formats, however, manage to develop international legs. Chua believes the problem is largely one of mind-set: "The West is very cautious when it comes to buying formats from the East. But I'm confident that, one day, a broadcast executive will take a chance on a winning Asian format - and I'll have a US hit."

There are, however, a handful of Asian companies, mainly Japanese, that have managed to cross the divide. Fuji TV's international successes, for example, include Iron Chef, Easy Money, Aspiring Designers and Love Bus.

SPTI's Gilbert, for one, believes that times are changing. "We now look for formats across the globe," he says. "These days, it doesn't matter where a format comes from, as long as it's a good show. For example, we recently acquired Dragon Den from Nippon Television, and have now licensed it to several territories, including Poland."

Gilbert points out that the longest running SPTI format in existence -American's Funniest Home Videos -was in fact originally a Japanese programme.


ACCORDING to Absolutely Independent's vice-president of sales and acquisitions, Annelies Noest, business can take more time in Asia than in other territories. "In 2001, negotiations for a format sale in Indonesia had been completed and contracts were about to be signed when September 11 stopped everything," Noest adds. "Then, the following year, there was the Bali bombing, followed by the SARS outbreak. Experience has taught us that patience is a prerequisite when selling formats into Asia."


MALAYSIA’s NTV7 has licensed a number of international formats, among them Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? Programme director Zahara Batusa says Millionaire fulfils one of her key buying criteria. "Our viewers don't just want to be enter-
tained," she says. "They also want something that stimulates them. Millionaire is not just a simple game show - it requires real intelligence."


DEANSEE Entertainment Limited and Branded Limited have linked up with Coca-Cola, Siemens Mobile and Tourism Queensland to produce China's first reality-based adventure show, The Wedding Race, which launched on several Chinese terrestrial channels in mid-February. The show pits five romantically linked couples against each other for the grand prize of a house.

The Wedding Race was created by Ken Lau and David Lee, partners and co-founders of Hong Kong-based Deansee. "Sponsor-assisted programming is a rapid growth market in Asia," says Jasper Donat, executive director of Branded Limited.