Kuala Lumpur-based video-on-demand powerhouse iflix is getting in the originals game.
Earlier this week, news leaked of the production of Oi, Jaga Mulut! (English: “Hey, watch your mouth!”), a stand-up series that’s set to be recorded live May 1-3 at LOL Comedy Club, at KL’s TREC. Today, they revealed their broader strategy, which will see Indonesia and Philippines get their own versions of the no-holds-barred comedy series as well.
While they’re still auditioning the final talent pool, the hosts for each region have already been announced, with Haniff Hamzah hosting in Malaysia, Ramon Bautista in the Philippines, and Ananda Omesh in Indonesia.
But the comedy push is just the tip of the iceberg. The new original content slate will see them commission a sequel to Indonesian teen movie hit Magic Hour, which will take the form of an eight-part series.
They’ve also announced a multi-year deal with Skop Productions Group and Viper Studios, creators of Malaysian box office hits like Munafik, KL Gangster and Villa Nabila.
The injection of resources into the local market is unquestionably a game-changer. The Malaysian production industry has long been at the mercy of local cable giant Astro, or limited by access to funding and distribution.
We sat with Mark Francis, iflix global director of original programming, and asked about iflix’s commitment to fostering and developing localized content.
The term “disruptor” gets thrown out a lot in the start-up scene. How is iflix is truly “a disruptor” to the Netflix establishment?
I agree. The term has been bandied about a lot and there’s always a danger these things lose their meanings when they become mere catchphrases. In my opinion, the thing about disruption is not the act itself but the more interesting question is: to what end? In other words, disruption should have a positive purpose. Otherwise, you’re just being an annoying teenager.
In a creative/editorial sense, iflix is here to disrupt the orthodox slate of local entertainment and TV offerings where we believe we can provide users with a more enjoyable or engaging viewing experience. We can do this partly because in an on-demand environment, we’re not just here to fill schedules with volume but can afford to be far more selective about what we make, how we make it, and who we make it with. That includes rough and ready stand up comedy the likes of which you don’t see on mainstream TV – but rather in private comedy clubs.
We have no ambitions to be disrupting Netflix, nor are we competing with them. Our true competition is content piracy.
What are you guys bringing to the table that the viewer won’t get with [cable channel] Astro Awani, for example? What gap are you filling?
When I first arrived at iflix someone asked me why local producers were so unimaginative and standards low. My response was: It’s not actually the producers that are the source of the problem, but the TV ecosystem. You have dominant players such as Astro that do a lot of good work, but the ecosystem and their schedules don’t always compel them to innovate. They don’t sometimes need to change things up, spend more, take creative risks. Luckily for me, I have no choice but to do that.
What’s the future of content in SE Asia?
Besides being aware of trends and what’s in fashion content wise, I just focus on the question of how can we do better, how can we give audiences better, more engaging, more relevant, more impactful stories. People forget TV is not an intellectual medium… it’s an emotional one. Ultimately, my hope is SEA content gets as good as Korean in production value, processes and storytelling, though not necessarily genres – that should be something to aim for.
Tell us more about your comedy special, Oi
It’s a bold experiment that showcases the kind of humour usually only heard in comedy clubs, combined with innovative and hilarious interactive games, with the ultimate ambition of serving a new brand of local comedy.
Interactive games? No idea what interactive games means, but sounds fun.