POV: Factual for the Far East

Factual for the Far East
April 1, 2006

FremantleMedia’s Patrick Schult, MD of Asian operations, gives the inside scoop on how reality formats are fairing in Asia, who’s tuning in, and what’s hot

What type of reality TV is resonating with Asian viewers?
The type of reality programming still popular in many Asian markets focuses on life-changing experiences. The wealth gap in some markets is gigantic, so emotions are amplified when lives are changed. Indonesia, for example, has seen a run of programs in which people are handed large sums of money – more than they may have even seen in their lives – and are asked to spend it over a certain period of time. Of course, this type of programming requires some moral judgment by the producers.

Is the audience for factual growing? Shrinking?
India is interested in reality, and this trend appears to be gaining strength. Indonesia, on the other hand, is seeing the appetite for reality programming shrinking, likely because of the predictability of the concepts.

Are the viewers who tune into factual formats in Asia the same as those that do so elsewhere?
This largely depends on the format. The American Idol audience demographic is very wide and this is the case from India to Singapore, whereas The Apprentice in some markets captures mainly the [up-market] A/B demographic. We found this to be the case in Indonesia: the audience was very much A/B, which pleased the broadcaster, as the sponsors were able to reach their customers with a measure of certainty.

What cultural factors shape content differently than in the West?
Localization of formats is paramount – a format cannot simply be copied. In India, for example, dancing competitions would not be ballroom, but rather Bollywood movie dances… The key to format localization is to have the shows made by the people of the country airing the show.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.