The Vietnamese Value: When The Price Is Right

Vietnam’s intricacies are worth paying attention to as the market matures

If it is not already known, Vietnam took the lead in formats acquisition in 2019, with an estimated 70 acquisitions, including adaptations, aired last year, as well as those commissioned for 2020 (Omdia, July 2020). Gameshows dominate the unscripted scene, followed by music related unscripted formats and then reality formats. From these statistics, their national broadcaster VTV was the biggest buyer, closely followed by HTV (HCMC television).

From the candid and genuine session that was part of ATF’s Plugged-In Series 2020, significant Vietnamese buyers made it clear of what can work for them, and discussed the major concerns that would make it difficult for foreign sellers to find success in this market.

BHD’s Vice President, Thi Bich Hanh Ngo revealed that for their OTT platform, 90% of what she acquires are foreign content. A significant note is that smaller TV stations as well acquire more foreign content in the country. That said, Hanh Ngo also disclosed that because Vietnamese viewers are very selective, Hollywood movies, Korean and Chinese drama series currently take the majority of the imported content pie.

Vietnam Television’s Manager of Planning & Market Research, Ha Thi Mai Linh, stated that while her focus for now is on foreign TV series – scripted formats that are localized in their own production house – and gameshows (unscripted), she is looking for something new that will target kids and family beyond the many singing and dancing formats that are already on air in the country.

A crucial aspect addressed across the board is pricing. Mai Linh stressed that this is a big factor to consider with budget constraints being an upfront concern. This will be a deal breaker more so than ever, as according to Skyline Media’s General Director, Trinh Le Minh Hang, international partners have little understanding in the matter of local taxation over cost, in addition to the continued comparison of Vietnam with Thailand.

That said, Minh Hang does acquire movies from around the world, and buying at the post-production stage. However, while variety and new foreign movies are welcomed, she emphasized that they have to possess a certain level of commercial appeal.

Propensi Media’s Licensing Manager, Tran Thi Lan Chi, advised that an easier way into the Vietnamese market would be via the partnering of local companies, seeing how when it comes to having a quick timeslot filler, she herself would deal with local agents.

Attendees to this session had a high-level match with what Vietnamese buyers want. With the top genres being dramas and formats, along with a majority 75% looking to sell their finished products into Vietnam, opportunities abound, albeit local specifics will encourage transactions.

The core of Vietnamese preference today outside of the unscripted is clearly Chinese and Korean dramas. However, the fast rise in popularity of scripted crime productions – with mention of Spanish crime dramas/movies being a favourite – is a welcomed prospect going forward.

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

“Our main concern is budget; if the price is not right, the market will not allow us to pay more than we are able to. Even the price of Korean drama series has dropped. If sellers want to make it in Vietnam, there has to be mutual support. We have to make sure that local players make a little bit of money as well.

“The golden years of buying more than one can afford, for branding purposes, is over.

“As well, what is incredibly important for us is to buy before the show airs in the original country.
Due to piracy Vietnam will always prefer to do a simulcast.”


 Thi Bich Hanh Ngo, Vice President, BHD Co., Ltd

“I prefer a shortlist of programs, as we are not likely to go through a thick catalogue. After the success of Running Man and Workpoint’s Super 10, the next step for us will be adapted scripted formats (sitcom and drama).

“Co-production was good in the past, having had partnerships with CJ ENM and FOX. While this thus has a higher chance of it being done again, our focus is on other strategies at the moment.”

— Ha Thi Mai Linh, Manager of Planning & Market Research Department, TV Advertising & Services Center, Vietnam Television

“Our Channel is 100% dubbed content. The competition of content acquisition is becoming fiercer in Vietnam, especially with the likes of Netflix paying more for exclusivity.

“We are thus considering now to have US/European content, nothing however that we have not acquired any US/European yet, as it is still a challenge, seeing how our audience are not familiar with such content."

“OTT platforms have a more diverse content pool, but tend to focus on dramas, movies, animation and sports.”

— Tran Thi Lan Chi, Licensing Manager, Propensi Media

“We love Spanish film, especially in crime/thriller. However, localization is very important, as all platforms request for subtitling first. Thus, we have a lab that puts content through QC and technical performance in localization.

“While we are used to non-Vietnamese dialogue and localizing it, we usually prefer to have the English script. A major concern is that Chinese content usually does not come with an English script.

“Finally, when it comes to animation features, we will be interested to consider, and would be keen to have more details.”

— Trinh Le Minh Hang, General Director, Skyline Media Co., Ltd