The secret to scoring big at MIP’ Asia is co-productions, says Regis Brown, director of international distribution at Film Roman. ‘The trick is to design a product from the ground up with partners in mind,’ says Brown, who’s going to MIP’ Asia seeking co-production partners for two series currently in development: 21, an action-adventure show for boys, and a show for preschoolers called Bearsy Bears. ‘That’s how to win the Asian games,’ he says.
That’s not to say importing popular Western programs and selling licensing and merchandising opportunities isn’t still a good bet. Film Roman will be selling a stable of shows, including Felix the Cat, Bruno the Kid, C-Bear and Jamal, The Blues Brothers animated series and Mortal Kombat. But the co-productions are where Brown is betting his money. ‘Since they haven’t gone into production yet, they can be tweaked to fit the Asian market,’ he says, adding that he hopes this will help motivate investors.
Brown is so confident about co-productions with Asian partners that he predicts Film Roman will, in the future, be able to pay for a third of its production costs from Asian revenue.
‘I think there’s a lot more opportunity in Asia than people realize,’ he adds, noting that in recent conversations with broadcasters there, he’s seen a surge of interest in merchandising and licensing. No longer will Western entertainment companies be able to walk away with a lion’s share of the rights and revenues, Brown predicts.
‘They expect to participate in the revenues that a property will generate worldwide,’ he says. Furthermore, cable systems are also expanding rapidly, increasing the need for more programming.
Film Roman will also be going after licensing on shows already enjoying success in Asia, such as Felix the Cat, which is currently airing in Taiwan, Korea and Australia. But ultimately, Brown says, ‘we’re not there because we want to sell a one-off show.’ With productions like 21, which he expects to be a joint Asian/American/European property, he says, ‘we’re actively pursuing the worldwide property.’