DRIVEN BY intense competition in the digital-TV broadcasting industry, leading production houses and broadcasters have been forced to create quality content not only to attract local viewers, but also to distribute and place Thai ‘soft power’ in overseas
Back in 2010, the “Battle of Angels” – a Thai soap opera revealing a love story among flight attendants – was a massive hit in mainland China and made Thai actor Nawat “Pong” Kulrattanarak one of the most popular overseas actor in that country. T-Pop (Thai-popular) culture via entertainment content remains a force in China to this day, as well as in neighbouring countries.
Takonkiet Viravan, who was behind the success of “Battle of Angels”, now serves as chief executive officer of GMM One Digital TV – the operator of One 31 digital-TV channel – and his production houses, Exact and Scenario, continue to export Thai-made soap operas.
“Since we have our own digital free-to-air TV channels, we have had to increase the number of quality television dramas and situation comedies. And most of them have been sold to our long-time partners,” he said. This year, more than 10 TV soaps and sitcoms are being made by the business for broadcasting via this form of media outlet.
Surapol Perapongpipath, director for sales at GMM One Digital TV, said the company also distributed these finished programmes to neighbouring countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar and China.
Among the exported shows are “Miss Beauty and Talent Thailand, Season 1”, “News Syndrome” and “Leh Ratree”.
“After our shows were aired overseas, our actors and actress also became well-known in those countries. This was a great chance for talented Thai artists to broaden their overseas fan base,” he said.
Srisuda Wanapinyosak, deputy governor for international marketing (Asia and South Pacific) at the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), told The Nation that the popularity of Thai soap operas and films that had been aired overseas could help raise awareness of the country.
“We realised the importance of T-Pop in some countries, namely Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia and China. Therefore, the TAT recently appointed Thai heartthrob actor Mario Maurer as Thai tourism ambassador in those markets,” she explained.
Mario became a sensation in the acting world because of his performances in a number of top-rated films over the past decade: “The Love of Siam” in 2007, “A Little Thing Called Love” in 2010 and “Pee Mak Prakanong” in 2013. The TAT plans to organise a series of Mario meet-and-greet events in China, the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia during the remainder of the year, she said.
Saithip Montrikul na Ayudhaya, CEO of GMM Channel Digital TV – the operator of GMM 25 digital-TV station – said a number of finished programmes, such as “Club Friday: The Series, Seasons 1–8”, “Wanna Be Sup’tar” and “Ugly Duckling”, had been sold to Southeast Asian markets.
Among local production houses, Workpoint Entertainment appears to be going further than its peers, as it has exported 19 format programmes to five continents after jumping onto this bandwagon in 1999.
Thanasak Hunarak, the company’s chief business development officer, said Workpoint had sold at least 10 format programmes and another 10 finished programmes to key markets such as France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Peru, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Singapore and the US.