Both state-owned and private television stations and companies in Vietnam have faced immense difficulty exporting their shows.
While numerous foreign TV reality shows have forayed into the local market, only two Vietnamese series have been exported so far.
The English version of “Martin Yan-Taste of Vietnam,” a 26-episode series on Vietnamese cuisine and tourism which is hosted by renowned Chinese American chef Martin Yan, began airing on Asian Food Channel (AFC) at 8:00 pm every Thursday starting last week.
This is the first locally made TV show to be broadcast on AFC- an international channel specializing in lifestyle – including cuisine and tourism.
Launched in Vietnam in mid-2013, the series features Yan traveling to 15 provinces and cities across the country: Hanoi, Lao Cai, and Ninh Binh in the north; Da Nang, Hue, and Nha Trang in the central region; and Ho Chi Minh City, Tien Giang, and Can Tho in the south, where he explored particular places of interest, intriguing cuisine, and culture.
The TV program was also aired on the U.S.’s 300 KQED, PBS, and APT stations starting September 6.
The show was co-written by a foreign scriptwriter to better cater to international TV viewers’ tastes.
Martin Yan’s celebrity as a chef and his corporate expertise have also been of great help to the show’s exportation quest.
In September 2014, another local show titled “Vietnam Discovery,” which is produced by VTV4- the national television’s foreign relations promoting channel- was aired in the “Discover World” program on South Korea’s Arirang TV.
Vietnam Discovery, which is VTV4’s first series to air on a foreign channel and is currently broadcast on VTV1 and VTV4, features trips across Vietnam through the eyes of expats and accentuates the country’s landscapes, culture, cuisine and people.
Little monetary gains
When asked about royalty, Martin Yan said that his show is broadcast for free.
“The thing that counts is that TV viewers across the world have the chance to discover the stunning landscapes and culinary delights in Vietnam, which I truly adore,” Yan stressed.
Buu Dien, CEO of Dien Quan Media & Entertainment and the show’s production director, agreed, saying that royalty from the show is inconsiderable.
However, he and his team have taken great pride that the show is on par with its international counterparts.
Likewise, “Vietnam Discovery” is part of an exchange program with Arirang TV and is thus non-commercial.
HCMC Television Film Studios (TFS)- a major TV series producer- once cooperated with an American company in producing and launching a film and some TV shows on American television, but has ceased the activity in the past few years.
“Stalls featuring Vietnamese films and shows at international fairs are less appealing to foreigners, who find the shows quite unsuitable for their tastes. Many of our shows may have good topics but aren’t properly developed or duly invested,” explained Le Quang Trung, TFS’s general director.
He also pointed out Vietnam television still lags far behind their foreign counterparts regarding technology.
“The show exportation quest is tough and we shouldn’t expect to recoup our investment,” Dien noted, adding that the “Martin Yan’s Taste of Vietnam” series was pumped with US$1.5 million, but has recouped only half of the investment so far.
However, he and his team are satisfied with its rewards in that the show promotes local TV show producers’ capability to their international counterparts, which may pave the way for long-term success in bringing more local television shows to the world.