This analysis is based on data collected from January to October 2023 – it takes into account new scripted format adaptations launched, confirmed as upcoming or optioned during this period, as well as returning seasons of existing scripted format adaptations.
The landscape of scripted content in Asia differs somewhat from the unscripted landscape. In the same research period, 100 unscripted format adaptation sales were made into Asia. However, while scripted sales are not too far behind at 68 sales, only 37 adaptations were launched in this research period. Among the calculated 100 unscripted remakes, the majority also aired during the research period. For those that haven’t, most are already in the casting or filming stages.
This isn’t surprising, as the production of drama is more costly, and carefully localising scripted stories tends to take longer than a game or talent show. However, the high risk associated with creating expensive dramas is somewhat mitigated by the use of a format with a proven track record elsewhere in the world. With the huge advantages of relying on an already written script, and already filmed visuals from the original tapes, it’s not surprising that scripted formats have garnered record-high interest in the market during such risk-averse, economically-challenging times.
In the following analysis, we examine Asia’s scripted format acquisition landscape. Specifically, a total of nine Asian countries bought 68 scripted remake rights for formats originating from 16 countries. In summary, India emerges as the biggest scripted format buyer among Asian countries, while South Korea stands out as the most successful scripted format seller to Asian countries.
Approximately 67% of the remade dramas in Asia originated from another Asian country. However, UK stories rank as the second most popular, just after Korean ones, thanks to the efforts of BBC Studios and All3Media International. India is the most open to stories from outside Asia, buying several from the UK, USA, and Israel. Stories from Spain, Norway, Denmark, France, and Turkey also received one or two Asian remakes in this research window.
India acquired or optioned the most scripted formats, with 17 titles in the research period. Thailand is one short of India, with 16 titles, and China follows in third place with twelve. These three are the only countries which bought or aired more than ten scripted titles. South Korea follows with eight titles, and Vietnam with five titles. The bottom buyers are Malaysia and Japan, both with three titles, Hong Kong with two titles, and Indonesia with one title.
Among the confirmed main broadcasters and/or streamers, Youku is the destination for many scripted adaptations, with five in total. Disney+ Hotstar follows with four, while Tencent Video, SonyLIV, One31, Netflix, and GMM TV showcase three adaptations each. True ID aired or agreed to adapt a total of five Korean titles, benefiting from its joint venture agreement with CJ ENM. Among these eight companies, five are streamers.
Unlike unscripted formats, which can be replicated in a shorter time and see more adaptations in various countries simultaneously, in the landscape of scripted format sales, fewer titles are sold to more than two countries in one year. Within the total of 68 sales, 59 distinct titles appear, and among them, only five titles received two or more sales during this window.
Limen Pictures (China)’s female-centric drama Nothing But Thirty (pictured) was optioned for remakes in six countries: South Korea (on JTBC), Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam. The other four titles are CJ ENM’s romantic thriller drama Flower of Evil (aired on Zee5 India in October, with Youku’s Chinese interpretation upcoming), MBC’s fantasy romance W: Two Worlds (with two versions launched on Tencent Video in February and Viu in November), SET Taiwan’s classic rom-com My Lucky Star (aired in two distinctive versions in China on Youku and in Thailand on One31 in April), and the UK’s relationship thriller Doctor Foster (had two adaptations aired in Thailand on Channel 3 in August and in Japan on Nippon TV in April).
In terms of the most prolific sales distributor in Asia for scripted formats, CJ ENM surpassed its peers by a distance, with nine sales, among which five titles were produced or are to be produced by its joint venture, True CJ Creations. Another way to highlight a successful distributor in the region during the research period is by counting the adaptations that have been launched. MBC takes the lead with five adaptations of their formats launched, surpassing CJ ENM and BBC Studios, both of which had four launched adaptations.
Best Selling Genres
Many compelling narratives are crafted with unexpected twists and turns, leading the audience on a unique journey. However, this narrative complexity poses a challenge when attempting to pigeonhole a drama into a single genre! Therefore, among the 68 sales of scripted adaptations, we assign each title two to three “genre tags” to capture the multifaceted nature of the stories. For instance, SLL’s Reborn Rich is tagged with fantasy, revenge, and drama. In total, there are 109 tags for the 59 unique titles sold. The most sought-after genres for remake opportunities in Asian markets are Romance, leading with 20 titles, followed by Thriller at 18. Crime and Fantasy (including Sci-Fi and Supernatural elements) jointly hold the third position with a count of nine, with Comedy counting at eight. Additionally, various dramas set against backdrops of business, workplace, medical, legal, political, press, banking, and orchestra contribute to a total of 12 titles.
Diving into the most popular Romance genre, it is often combined with Fantasy (4), Comedy (3), Thriller (2), and Melodrama (2). Among the Thrillers, Crime Thriller is the most popular, followed by Romance Thriller and Relationship Thriller. Interestingly, workplace Thrillers such as political, legal, or high-school backstory Thrillers also help diversify this genre. Doctor Foster and Flower of Evil are the only thriller formats sold to two countries.
Further investigation into the top three buyers by country reveals that India is a big buyer of Thriller titles, with eight out of 17 adapted being Thrillers. Those Thriller titles mixed with Romance and Comedy each account for three.
On the contrary, Thailand prefers adapting Romance IPs, with five out of the 16 being Romance. High-school-based and Boy Love titles account for four, with three in the Thriller category. Romance mixed with Thriller, Comedy or Fantasy is the most popular genre in China, with five out of 12 adaptations being Romance-infused dramas.
Finally, in compiling all sales information, we’ve observed a significant surge in the remake landscape for Boy Love stories. Evolving from the foundation of Romance, Boy Love particularly captivates audiences in countries such as Thailand, Taiwan, and Japan. These stories, originating in various forms like manga, webtoons, and web novels, serve as excellent source material for TV adaptations. In addition to two instances of “TV IP to TV IP” remakes—TV Asahi’s Ossan’s Love (pictured) selling to Thailand and GMM TV’s Why R U? selling to South Korea—four other Boy Love TV series have been introduced in Thailand and various pan-Asian streaming platforms, all adapted from foreign comics and novels.