Summing up 2020's Asia TV Forum (ATF) Online+

A huge advantage with online conferences is the ability to catch up on-demand after a long list of scheduled meetings and here's featuring some of the more insightful bits of 2020's Asia TV Forum.

Though the ATF Online+ platform wasn't the most user-friendly and you'll know why from this post, some of the keynote speakers gave considerable insights to ponder as we wind down 2020 and count on progress with the promise of a COVID-19 vaccine in 2021.

The screenings are an anticipated segment in most content trade events, ATF was no different. Although in this edition, the most compelling ones seemingly hail from Taiwan and China.

Taiwan's Public Television System (PTS) is evidently on a roll, dishing out four new series, one of which, Detention, already premiered globally on Netflix early December. If you're a horror junkie, we promise you won't be disappointed. Other series acquired by Netflix include "Green Door" and "A Touch of Green". PTS will launch the next series, "The Magician on The Skywalk" in 2021, with "Tears on Fire" and "Formosa 1867" aka "Seqalu" to follow, as reported on the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA).

As for China's latest features, there were many but "The Longest Day in Chang An" by Media Caravan stood out. The trailer alone promises a thrilling journey back to Chang An in the Tang Dynasty era. If you like action, suspense and Chinese historical fiction, this might be for you. Back to modern day drama, "Quiet Among Disquiet" is a woman's story on her climb up the corporate ladder in the fashion and media world. As the protagonist was forced out of her company, she stood fearless and strived to get back on the top. Talk about cutthroat in the Chinese workplace? This series will probably show a thing or two, with a touch of women empowerment.

What creates successful genres? During the session, "Leading the Charge to Victory with Formats", Ms Seo Hye Jin, Executive Director at TV Chosun, responsible for the success stories of Korean reality TV shows, "Mr. Trot" and "Miss Trot", revealed, "The most successful genres play into the emotions of humans." It never hurts to put yourselves in the shoes of others, does it?

Day 2 at ATF Online+ saw Jez Zhang, CEO & Chief Analyst of iiMedia Research Group spoke regarding the development of China's Film and TV industry for 2020 plus a 2021 forecast. As the COVID-19 pandemic saw a sharp decline in global box office revenues, countless film premieres were either postponed or cancelled. Just how lucrative is the box office business? Since 2005, global box office revenues have been steadily increasing from $23.1B to $42.2B in 2019. Asia Pacific accounts for around $17.8B in 2019, compared to North America at $11.4B and Europe, Middle East & Africa at $10.3B. Among all, South Korea suffered the largest decline at 56% in Q1, 2020.

Even as China re-opens, movie theaters aren't able to operate at full capacity due to social distancing measures. This limits the reach of films and thus, distributors turned to online video platforms. The result? Pretty good it seems. According to iiMedia, iQiyi and Tencent saw an increase in monthly active users during the Lunar New Year holidays (when COVID-19 hit China) and the following were observed:

- More than 70% of Chinese OTT viewers were aged 30 or below.

- Online video platforms have become an important risk averse film distribution channel for industry

- Noting positive reviews on social media, popular content on OTT platforms don't necessarily feature top actors and/or actresses. Content quality matters more.

- iQiyi increased it subscription pricing and revenues are expected to surpass box office revenues in time.

- In China, since locally produced content account for 85% of overall viewership, a greater shift for domestic produced films is likely.

The highlight of Day 3 was "Talking Taiwan: The State of Things to Come" with Dennis Yang, CEO & Managing Partner of Studio76. His wealth of experience as an entertainment media professional enlightened viewers as he shared his foresight and wisdom about the Taiwanese market.

- Mentioning Smart Cinema: A company utilizing a premium video on demand (PVOD) model, skipping a theatrical release and hitting video platforms for viewers to enjoy at a fee. The company started in Taiwan and to date has launched in both US and Korea.

- Not all genres are loved equally: The horror genre that appeals to female more than male in Taiwan. The Korean audience seem to reflect similar tastes. Scary show tend to be less effective in Japan nor Brazil. They apparently better appreciate romantic comedies and teenage love stories respectively.

- Rising Stories: A script competition co-organized by Studio76, Mediacorp WeTV and X-Media, will start accepting Chinese submissions next February. The hope is to attract new, young and talented writers. Dennis added this is also a way to get new stories.

- Netflix success: Representing series and films with simple storylines portrayed by strong characters. Stories are compellingly narrated, yet focused on building strong characters of the protagonists. "Emily in Paris" was an example cited.

Despite being the established individual he is, through his work at Studio76, Dennis hasn't stopped learning about the young Taiwan audience nor the international OTT market. Further, he continues to make waves in the Chinese media and production community, enabling young aspiring writers and producers to step up, in and out of Taiwan.

Images are screenshots from ATF Online+.