Hollywood studio DreamWorks Animation, in the midst of a major push to raise its profile in Asia, is about to get a big boost in Thailand, after a new programming block on Channel 3, one of the Kingdom’s biggest free-to-air networks, went live at the beginning of the month.
For DreamWorks, it’s the first deal of its kind in the region. The studio just started rolling out its linear offering, DreamWorks Channel, in the second half of last year, securing distribution on pay-TV platforms in Thailand (CTH), Malaysia (TM) and Singapore (StarHub, as of this month) so far.
Exclusive partnerships are preferred, including rights to monetize DreamWorks properties across multiple platforms, as a cornerstone for local growth.
The agreement with Channel 3 in Thailand, for example, was co-ordinated by the studio’s local affiliate CTH, the country's second-largest pay-TV operator.
The move dramatically broadens the reach of DreamWorks IP in a market where pay-TV penetration overall seems to have stalled at ~30% of TV homes.
As part of the deal, two of DreamWorks’ theatrical spin-offs, All Hail King Julien and The Adventures Of Puss In Boots, are running on weekdays on Channel 3 from 5:30-6:00 pm. Another, Dragons: Race To The Edge, is on from 7:20-7:50 am at weekends.
More DreamWorks content, meanwhile, will run on DTT channels run by Channel 3’s parent, BEC World.
A PUSH INTO TV
Globally, television is becoming an increasingly important source of revenue and profit for DreamWorks, which has trimmed headcount and scaled back its movie output after some box-office disappointments.
The studio has relatively few licensing deals in Asia however, allowing it to package together windows and IP for local partners.
“We think ours is broadly popular content, and we want to reach as large an audience as possible,” Eric Ellenbogen, co-head of international TV for DreamWorks Animation, tells Media Business Asia.
“We have a few legacy deals out there, but very little individual program sales going on,” he adds.
“It really is about aggregating it all in one place on the channel, and then providing a limited free-to-air block as a small subset of what affiliates are getting on the channel.”
The focus for DreamWorks Channel is on Southeast Asia for now, where HBO Asia handles affiliate sales, marketing and technical services.
Other markets in Asia will follow in a second phase of growth, together with a greater push around merchandizing opportunities and deeper localization online.
DreamWorks also has a 45% stake in Chinese JV Oriental DreamWorks, which just released its first production, Kung Fu Panda 3.
MORE TO COME
As a new entrant, Dreamworks Channel is banking on the renown of its core franchises and the range of its original content to gain traction in a crowded field, where pay-TV is coming under greater pricing pressure in many markets.
Ellenbogen is keen to see the momentum continue, deploying a channel-first strategy as a starting point, which is molded to suit different Asian markets.
The studio’s tie-up in Malaysia, with IPTV and broadband provider TM, is another exclusive arrangement.
TM is offering the channel a la carte, and within the Jumbo Pack on its IPTV service, HyppTV.
While local regulations prohibit exclusivity in Singapore, the pact with StarHub also includes a broad swathe of multiscreen rights.
After a free preview, StarHub will offer DreamWorks Channel, including linear and on-demand content, a la carte as well as in bundles.
The channel will become part of the Supreme Box Office pack on StarHub’s traditional pay-TV service, and part of the Premium Pack for its SVOD offering StarHub Go.
“We gave them very broad rights in the content, insofar as StarHub platforms are concerned,” Ellenbogen notes.
“They have enormous flexibility, which is the way we like it, because we want them to be nimble as the market changes, as audiences express how they want to get the content and what they want to pay for it.”