Almost exactly a year after Amazon’s Prime Video officially set foot in Thailand, the company is this week launching its first locally-made ‘original.’
Produced for the streamer by Liminal Entertainment in conjunction with Malin Films Production, and executive produced by Jef Lim, Marilyn Tan and Malin Pongsapipatt, the show follows six well-known actors to an almost utopian island, where the only thing missing is laughter. The celebrities are tasked with performing improvised skits to lift the locals’ gross happiness index. The series launches on Thursday, delivering the first three of its six episodes.
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Darin Darakananda, Amazon Studios’ head of Thailand originals, calls the show “a commitment to the local creative community.” She expands on that theme in conversation with Variety.
What is the Prime Video strategy in Thailand?
As we’ve done in multiple territories, we want to come in and wow the audience with all the content that we’re creating. In Thailand, we’re zeroing in on a strategy of four content pillars: Korean content, which we know works really well in Thailand; [Japanese] anime; our Hollywood offerings and bigger global shows; and what my team does, which is the local originals.
How far have you got in Thailand?
We are a newer player. We are really excited with this, our first launch. We have very high hopes for it. It is a comedy that I think will really resonate with the Thai audience, but I think has the ability to break out because it is a little bit more distinct. It’s not a straightforward comedy. It’s a comedy series that has moments of improv and unexpectedness, which I think will resonate and cut through the clutter.
Thailand is where all the global streamers are operating. So too are the regional players and the Chinese platforms. What is Prime Video’s USP?
Our varied offerings are a USP. We’re not playing the volume game. We are playing a more curated game. One that should feel varied enough that whatever kind of mood you’re in, you should always find an offering available.
Also, the fact that we’re putting such a premium on our local originals, making sure that all our contents are of really high quality. We’re working with the best in the business both in front of and behind the camera. I want the Thai audience to see Prime Video as this reliable streamer that they can trust, like having like an older sister.
How does the company function, given that Amazon’s home shopping is not highly developed in Thailand?
For a lot of Thai customers [Prime Video] will be their first real foray [into Amazon] because most regular type people don’t use AWS. So, Prime Video will be the face of the bigger Amazon brand.
Can Prime Video bring customers into the shopping service ?
Possibly, but let’s see what the future holds. Amazon always has lots of big ideas that we want to execute.
How will you ramp up the local programming?
For now, we want to be as curated as possible. It is a smaller volume, because I don’t think that just throwing things at the wall is going to work for us. The Thai audience is very dynamic. Saying that they only like comedy or one other genre is a disservice to such a diverse and varied audience.
I want to be making things that are not only high quality, but also which feel a little distinct. Genres that you know and love, but with a nice twist. “Comedy Island” is a really good example of that. I’m so surprised at how these comedians are able to take the ball and run with it.
What is the content budget or investment plan?
What we are really focusing in on is executing to the best of our abilities. And executing for the local audience. It is within our discretion to use what we think will get us there. At Amazon, frugality is literally one of our leadership principles. But we also want to be raising the quality bar. We want to be giving the content creators here a chance to really kind of flex and play with things, because we always want to be the home for talent.
In Thailand, is your team developing content internally? Or are they essentially fielding pitches from all the local producers?
We are doing both. There’s my team who are working on the ground with the local producers. Working to see what feels like is is part of the Amazon DNA.
Will you also get involved with feature films?
Absolutely, yes. We want to be touching upon all the different formats and genres and give them a little bit of a flair.
Will you also acquire or license local content that has been elsewhere but fits your brand?
Of course, we have a licensing team – of one. She’s phenomenal. She’s a veteran who knows exactly what will work for the Thai audience. Our teams really worked hand in hand to kind of create that curated experience for the Thai audience.
Do you expect to put local producers on the output or first-look deals?
I think it’s early days. I’m open to anything that will help the Thai industry grow long- term. That’s my not-so-secret mission. I want to take any chance to show the entire world the level of talent that we have here.
What do you consider as the strengths of Thai production?
Weirdly enough, people may not know how Thailand performs at the local level, but we certainly known for handling a lot of high-level productions that come through. When someone thinks that they need to shoot in Southeast Asia, Thailand is the first place that comes to mind for most producers. I want everybody to see what Thailand can offer. If I’m able to give them that platform, that they can now show their craft worldwide, I can die happy.
Thai content travels reasonably well within the southeast Asia region. But it hasn’t had much impact outside. Do you see that changing?
Absolutely. I think it’s going to change because of the level of competition that we have here. Competition is the reason that we’re able to innovate and push ourselves and that’s really good for the industry. It provides the local content makers and our talent so many more opportunities than there were before.
Where did the “Content Island” show come from? Who’s directing it?
We actually have two phenomenal directors. Our creative director is Mez Tharatorn, who is really well known for his rom coms, especially comedies. And then we have director Krisada Kanivichaporn, who dabbles a little bit more in the horror-thriller genre, but has also done comedy. We’ve put the two together to create this little, very intense comedy, where we push our seven performers to this new intense level, of being able to follow a script, but then also have these moments of pure and unscripted amazingness.
This idea came about because as we were kind of brainstorming as to how best to kind of be kind of make a big splash in the market as our first show. Thai people love to smile. And this was greenlit right after COVID. It was a no brainer.
Where should we expect Prime Video Thailand to be in, say, three years time?
I would love for [Thai audiences] to be able to really put a finger on what our brand really is.
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