Content For Cambodia

Sellers show compatibility with what buyers want, but adaptations enhances opportunities

A market less looked at in general, ATF’s PLUGGED-iN SERiES, focused on Cambodian buyers, brought light into what buyers are looking for within this specific market. This insightful session’s unassuming conversation gave way to candid exchanges of genuine understanding.

Based on the consolidation of available data, Blue Media highlighted that the Cambodian media industry, while being a vibrant one, is still unregulated. However, local research shows that Cambodians in general, do appreciate quality content, and more so, content that can be enjoyed with family and friends.

Foreign content is still widely accepted, dubbed in the local Khmer language, includes the usual romance, horror, action, and suspense. The most popular genres on Cambodian TV to date includes local comedy, and formats, especially The Voice Cambodia and Cambodia Got Talent, as well as MasterChef and X Factor Cambodia.

On the drama side, the trending programmes swing towards what Thai, Chinese, Indian, and Korean have to offer. With regards to the latter, costume dramas are preferred, while the more modern ones are bought with greater discernment, a trend echoed by Socheata Sok, Programming Manager of Cambodian Broadcasting Service.

Further to this, Socheata also clarified that while the more unconventional content sources from the likes of Turkey or Spain may not be something Cambodia is ready for, it does not mean the opportunity stops there. In terms of adaptation, Cambodia can at times acquire programs adapted from Turkish content, so a more farsighted strategy may be needed.

B.C. Achaya, CCO of Sabay Digital highlighted that high MGs/initial down-payments have been the barriers he has faced in being able to monetize downstream, noting that a more favourable option would be a straight-out licensing deal on a profit share model.

Achaya also remarked that while some content will do well in Cambodia, the lack of foundational materials (for dubbing etc) that supports him launching that particular content may affect this decision to buy, stating that the Cambodian market is very linguistically locked in – it has to be in Khmer.

Michael Chai, CEO, of Westec Media Limited, reiterated the issue on localization, adding that beyond the cost of acquiring content, there is also the cost of localization (recruitment for localization etc); this is something that should be taken into account.

Michael also offered that the top elements that stop a content flourishing in Cambodia is piracy, and infrastructure, where bandwidth and speed is an issue outside of the big cities.

Adding to this, Achaya asserted that the financial infrastructure is also still a struggle – the cut of the profits made by the pipes from the platforms has been unbearable.

The top 3 primary/main genres of sellers who attended this session included Drama (33%), Kids (26%) and Doc/Factual (22%). This reflects a mismatch, as the top genres Cambodian buyers are looking for puts Drama, Formats and Horror/Action on top.

Majority of sellers who attended the session had finished products on hand; while this is on the right track, an important note to take away is that foundational materials, more often than not, will be a necessity to secure deals. As well, while the greatest problem facing sellers into Cambodia, based on a poll done during the session, is pricing, this market dictates that autonomous pricing plans will not work. Sellers need to understand that buyers will be keener to look at profit sharing. In a new world of reaching expanding territories, flexibility will be key.

For the full recording of ATF’s PLUGGED-iN SERiES 2020 – Cambodian Buyers Speak,

“I think that the “feeling” is lost when you do dubbing. This is akin to India that went through lip synching for years, but things have changed.

“From a data POV, I am looking at more slapstick comedy content. I am also open to look at Cooking Shows, a straight forward farm to table storytelling might work. I’m also interested in anyone who can offer a profit share deal, and welcome anyone who wants to do longform across territories of Indochina.

“Horror is low budget to produce with high yield, and Thai content is easiest to license.”


 B.C. Achaya, CCO, Sabay Digital

“I am grooming own team of voice talents to bring people closer to the experience.

“I’m looking to acquire comedy and horror movies. Looking forward, I’m also co-producing movies, short form TV content and game-related content. As well, sometimes I would like to acquire not just for Cambodia, but regional content for longform content.

“I feel that the kids’ segment in Cambodia is underserved, and such acquisition has to be more holistic with IP and merchandising.”

— Michael Chai, CEO, Westec Media Limited

“I have tested some new content before, and while it was accepted by some youths, it was not for the mass market.

“Translation and dubbing plays the most important role. Even in local production, dubbing is preferred with some of the more successful voices.

“Thai, Korean, Chinese, and Indian dramas continue to be popular, but as we have 3 channels under CBS, we are adapting ourselves with variety in content, as well storyline. In order of success, Drama (#1), Format (#2), and Docs (#3) works for us across the channels that focuses individually on mass market, teenagers and the male audience.

“As well, with regards to animation, I prefer 2D to 3D.”

— Socheata Sok, Programming Manager, Cambodian Broadcasting Service