How to monetize expensive TV and film content online in Asia was the topic in the opening Filmart panel yesterday “New Prospects for Online Distribution Of Entertainment Content” which featured speakers from Chinese web platforms Youku and Qiyi.

Although users, especially in China, are often used to getting content for free, the two panelists agreed that consumers could be persuaded to purchase legitimately if provided with high quality or tailored content.

“At Youku, we have TVOD users who pay for each viewing separately and then we have those who pay on a monthly basis and these are longterm users. 30% are monthly users and they watch eight to ten films a month and spend RMB40 - 50 ($6.3) per film. We have 500 million on-demand TV users and 800 - 900 million mobile platform users. We’re finding that once it becomes a habit, they won’t mind paying $5 for content,” said Zhu Hui Long, vice president, Film Operations and Corporate Development,

With its quota restrictions on foreign films’ theatrical releases, there are fears that the authorities will clamp down on the number of foreign films made available on new media, and, although he wouldn’t specifically address that possibility, Zhu said that “when the government closes one gate, there are still other gates to go through.”

Producers are looking at multiple platforms across Asia, avoiding exclusivity when they can.

“At Disney, we see digital media as an enabler. In order to grow our business, content is key. We have to offer consumers content on more media and devices,” said Amit Malhotra, vice president, Program Distribution, Disney Media Distribution (Asia Pacific), Walt Disney Company.

Malhotra also noted the same, giving an example of Disney/ABC’s enhanced Oscar 2012 telecast that was made available on an iPad app that got 400,000 downloads. “We had several cameras so that you could choose to watch your favorite stars and interact on Twitter and other social media as you watched.”

Although micro-films and bite-size content seem the best bets so far at attracting new consumers online and on mobile devices, panelists also spoke of using new media for multi-platform releases and multi-faceted marketing.

“For the local film Love Is Not Blind, which cost about RMB9m and generated about RMB360 million, it made use of online and bloggers in China. Every week, they would go around to a different city and have people tell their failed love stories. It was very successful. What we need is good ideas [like this],” said Zhu advocating the value of getting consumers involved.
Youku is also producing tailored content, as witnessed by their HKIFF omnibus of “micro films” under the collective title of Beautiful 2012. The content provider will be announcing on Thursday further plans for micro film productions in the future.
Content providers don’t want to be restricted or limited by platforms, as Anthony Zameczkowski, head of Music, Youtube APAC noted, “Now we’re trying to have content produced for Youtube to empower and accelerate content suitable for Youtube. We ask for content that is global and cross-devices - mobile, tablet and PC.”

Likewise foreign producers and suppliers are remaking their content ideas to appeal to the Chinese market.

“For instance, BBC has a hit car culture entertainment show called Top Gear. We work with Hunan TV and have a China version of the show. It’s very popular on social media sites like Weibo and Renren, too. So we focus on the brand of the content, not the BBC brand itself.,” said Pierre Cheung, vice president and general manager, Greater China, BBC Worldwide.
The panel was chaired by Screen editor Mike Goodridge.