Rumors are circulating that talks between HBO Asia and the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) to begin production of a season two of “Serangoon Road” have shifted into high gear driven by promising results in the UK and French marketplaces. The Indonesian 1960’s period suspense drama debuted in September of 2013 featuring Dony Hany and Joan Chen. The 10-part series was a collaboration between ABC and HBO Asia and was filmed largely on the island of Batam in Indonesia. It was created by Paul D. Barron and directed by Peter Andrikidis and Tony Tilse. Despite critically acclaimed reviews, the production companies had provided no indication that a second season would be forthcoming.
The overseas results forced the HBO Asia team to rethink their strategy. According to Erika North, Head of Programming and Production for HBO Asia discussing the network’s objectives: “… hopefully that the story will travel. We know that the genre works in our region and our regional footprint is quite wide, it’s a number of territories and they all have different tastes and they all have different sensibilities, and we’ve got different age groups that watch the channel at different times… it’s a huge challenge when we’re thinking of what to create because we’re not going to make the magic bullet, right? We try to do the best we can within that and tell a story in a way that’s original.”
An additional motivation to extend the series comes from Netflix. HBO’s global competitor is known for allowing their series to gestate longer to build a critical mass of audience through word of mouth. Cindy Holland, Netflix’ Vice President of Original Content, was quoted as saying, “We’ve always had an eye toward how a series might play in various international territories. Our goal is to license series that capture the rights for our all territories in which we operate or expect to shortly, and the goal is to have them all work reasonably well in all of our territories.”
In addition to “Serangoon Road”, HBO is busy with its new series “Grace” starring Russell Wong, Pamelyn Chee and Teresa Daley. HBO is also rumored to be in talks with Eros India CEO Rishika Lulla Singh and with Indonesia’s 2013 International Film Festival award-winning writer Devan Simpson for an animated series based in Dubai. HBO declined to comment on any potential series under negotiation. Perhaps understandably so from a competitive standpoint – Netflix’ Ms. Holland still laments that “True Detective” was snatched away by HBO. HBO’s foray into animation is likely a direct response to the Netflix deal inked last year with Dreamworks Animation for 300 hours of streaming animated tv series content. Clearly, the competition for content that resonates internationally is not only driving up the costs for licensing rights and determining what gets developed, but also affording the creators of content more time to build a sustainable global audience.