Cinar Films considers its attendance at MIP’ Asia to be part of the process of fostering long-term relationships with Asian companies.
‘Relationships are very important in Asia. You have to nurture them,’ says Louis Fournier, vice president of distribution and marketing with Cinar Films of Montreal. ‘[Asians] do business somewhat different ways. They like to use time as their ally. And you have to prove yourself over time. Then once you’ve established a trust, you can count on them for a long time.’
‘The fact that we travel to see them is a big plus,’ adds Fournier. ‘And it’s part of that philosophy of long-term relationships. If you go to Japan or Hong Kong or Shanghai to see your clients, they know you’re for real.’
Cinar has learned such lessons about doing business with Asia by selling its programs throughout the region over the last four to five years and by working with co-production partners such as AKOM of Korea for children’s program Arthur and, most recently, with NHK of Japan for the family film The Best Bad Thing.
Asian buyers are turned off by programs that are ‘culturally rooted in the North American or European reality,’ says Fournier. Shows such as Cinar’s Busy World of Richard Scarry do well because they ‘feature animal characters with human characteristics’ and have ‘a universality to the themes that are explored.’
While Cinar has found Asia receptive to its children’s television programs, licensing and merchandising play only ‘a small role’ in this market. Japan is the leader in the region. China offers ‘a huge potential,’ but selling products in the country is difficult because ‘there’s no infrastructure for distribution of consumer goods.’ Fournier predicts that licensing and merchandising in Asia are ‘bound to grow’ for the same reason that the television market is booming. ‘Asia is fast-developing industry-wide across the board,’ he says. ‘And television is no exception.’