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Bringing Asian culture to a global stage

Content has no geographical boundaries. Its genre, whether action, thriller or romance, is the language that is understood by audiences across the globe. Already renowned as the go-to channel for Hollywood films, HBO Asia has been producing its original local content since 2012, and is continually ramping up its local content library with collaborations with many regional filmmakers. APB prompts Jessica Kam, senior vice-president for HBO Asia Original Production, for more details.

For the past 25 years, HBO Asia has been bringing the best of Holly­wood to Asia through its partnerships with several Hollywood studios, including Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Studios, Warner Bros and Lionsgate.

And in a region embodied by richness in culture and histories, HBO Asia has also been producing original content since 2012, creating 10 Asian Originals to date.

Last year alone, HBO Asia premiered four Asian Originals, including the second season of Halfworlds, a dark action fantasy drama series set in Bangkok; The Teenage Psychic, its first original Chinese series set in Taiwan; SENT, a comedy drama series that premiered in September; and The Talwars: Behind Closed Doors, HBO Asia’s first original documentary series.

Jessica Kam, senior vice-president for HBO Asia Original Production, told APB: “It is part of the company’s commitment to producing more content, and we’re ready to inject more budget into doing this. By producing more content, we’re able to create more genres, which is a critical aspect of our strategy.

“Besides catering to different genre preferences, we have to appeal to a wider age range. For instance, we want to target younger audiences as well, because in the new world of the Internet, the audiences tend to be younger than our typical HBO audiences. Therefore, we have to expand our genres to captivate them.”

Declaring that the media industry is facing a completely different landscape brought forth by the emergence of over-the-top (OTT) services, Kam pointed out that the key to a competitive strategy is still content. She elaborated: “Although technology has changed how media companies reach out to their audiences, it is content that really drives them to the channel.

“Audiences will come to the channel if there is good content. More importantly, audiences today are aware of the programmes they want to watch, but the question is where can they watch it? We’re in an age of viewers finding the service instead of accommodating to them, and our job is to create even more compelling content so that they will be drawn to us.”

HBO Asia is a wholly owned subsidiary of Time Warner’s HBO, and has reached out to 23 terri­tories in Asia with six 24-hour subscription movie channels — HBO, HBO Signature, HBO Family, HBO Hits, Cinemax and Red by HBO — as well as an Internet streaming platform, HBO GO, and a subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service, HBO On Demand.

With a commitment to expanding its repertoire further for audiences in the region and globally, the network plans to increase the number of HBO Asian Originals productions scheduled to premiere in the coming years.

One series premiering on HBO Asia’s network of channels is Folklore, a six-episode, hour-long horror anthology series that takes place across multiple Asian countries including Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, with each episode based on each country’s superstitions and myths.

Helmed by different directors from various countries in Asia, each episode will seek to explore societal dysfunctions in a manner that is specific to the country, yet possessing themes that will resonate across the continent.

HBO Asia has also entered a partnership with HJ Holdings, the operator of Hulu subscription SVoD service in Japan, to co-produce an original drama series — Miss Sherlock. The eight-part Japanese drama series will be aired across 20 countries this April on Hulu in Japan and on HBO Asia’s network of channels, including HBO GO and HBO On Demand, in the rest of Asia.

Describing the collaboration as a “good marriage” of combining resources from both HBO Asia and Hulu Japan, Kam said that the partnership was a “natural progression” for the network to embark on, as Japanese content has always been well received across the region.

However, she also highlighted the challenges in managing content distribution to more than 20 countries, as each country has its own language, culture and religion. She explained: “The challenges we face in Asia is very different from what my counterparts in the US will be facing — the US is big

but is also more homogeneous. This is why I stressed a lot on genres because genres communicate clearly, and the key is picking the genres that travel better, regionally and globally.

“At HBO Asia, our team picks the best content that we believe will travel. Because as HBO Asia becomes more sophisticated as a brand, a channel and a content provider, we have to evolve. We have to tell more authenticated stories by going deeper, more locally, and that’s where I see as the next era of HBO Asia.”

This article is featured on our Jan/Feb 2018 issue. Click here to read the rest of the issue.


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