So this guy gave me a card with a phone number and asked me to join a game…
Seriously though, the last two years have been brutal and it’s time to take a break. It’s also time to take a look back over the last six years, to the beginning of the streaming boom.
When I started Chime in 2014, it was because the publication I was working for, Screen International, was focused on the film industry and didn’t cover drama series or other forms of entertainment (although that has since obviously changed). I could see some big changes were coming in the ways that content was being developed, produced and distributed, and wanted to explore this space through best way I knew – writing news, analysis and features.
At the time, Netflix and Amazon still hadn’t launched in Asia; Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Tencent were taking their first tentative steps into the entertainment business; and India’s OTT boom was still nothing more than a glint in Mukesh Ambani’s eye.
My concern at the time (as noted in the site’s ‘About Chime’ section) was that we’d all end up watching English-language content on Netflix.
Well I was right that we’d all end up watching Netflix. But I was wrong that we’d all be watching English-language films and series. The streamer’s top three shows this year were respectively Korean, French and Spanish (Squid Game, Lupin and Money Heist). I guess we all just needed the convenience of our living rooms to get over the “one inch tall barrier of subtitles” as Parasite director Bong Joon Ho so aptly described them.
The past six years have been an interesting time in this part of the world. We’ve seen Netflix’s rivals Amazon, Disney+ and WarnerMedia start piling into Asia, while a host of local or smaller players came and went (a moment’s silence please for LeTV, iflix and HOOQ, Dramafever, which got swallowed by WarnerMedia, and Australia’s Presto, Ezyflix and Quickflix). But we’ve also seen Chinese streamers iQiyi and Tencent expand internationally, and Asia-based players like Viu giving the US giants a run for their money in Southeast Asia.
All these players are doubling down on local-language content, which means there’s never been so much opportunity for producers in the region. And there has never been so much at stake in terms of the fragile ecosystem of independent filmmaking. From the point of view of consumers, never before have we had access to so much subtitled content made in Tamil, Telugu, Tagalog, Bahasa Indonesian, Hindi, Korean, Japanese, different dialects of Chinese and Thai. The choice is dizzying, and while not all of it is great, our acceptance of other languages and cultures has probably never been so high.
During this break, I’m going to decide what to do with Chime. What was once niche is now mainstream and there is no shortage of coverage of the international streaming space. In the meantime, I’m leaving links to my favourite articles, which trace how completely the business has been transformed over the past six years.
Breaking schedules: China’s online video boom (May 22, 2014) – this was still the early days of China’s streaming revolution.
COMMENT: Thawing the theatrical model (July 31, 2014) – about Snowpiercer‘s hybrid North America release strategy.
Mr Sarandos goes to Cannes (May 20, 2015) – the grande dames of Europe still didn’t know what to make of this cocky interloper.
Asian content in demand and on-demand (October 24, 2015) – the streaming boom was starting to take off in East Asia.
VIEW FROM SUNDANCE & BERLIN: International buyers feel the streaming squeeze (Feb 27, 2016) – an issue that hasn’t got any better in the past few years.
VIEW FROM MIPTV: Europe, we have a problem (April 13, 2016) – when it started to become apparent that power now comes with huge stonking piles of data and not longevity.
LONG READ: India braces for VOD revolution (October 19, 2016) – a little late to the party, but India quickly became one of the brightest belles at the ball.
VIEW FROM CANNES: Who needs who more in L’Affaire de Netflix? (June 2, 2017) – Cannes vs. Netflix, another drama that will run way past its first season.
LONG READ: How China’s streaming giants are growing subs (Nov 11, 2019) – China’s streamers start to reach saturation in their home market and look further afield.
COMMENT: Netflix’s problem in adapting The Three-Body Problem (Sep 9, 2020) – I still haven’t had the courage to watch the Foundation series on Apple TV+.
How local streamers are holding up against global competition in SE-Asia (October 22, 2021) – or how Netflix and Disney are (currently) not the only game in town.