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Asia’s Got Talent producer Paul O’Hanlon: ‘I spent too much money on season one’

The producer of Asia’s Got Talent’s second season has admitted he spent “too much money” on the show’s “monster project” of a first series.

A month ahead of its release date, Paul O’Hanlon said the second season was made on smaller budget to that of the record-breaking US$10 million spent on series one, which originally aired in 2015.

O’Hanlon was previously managing director of the production and distribution company Freemantle Asia, which has historically co-produced the ‘Got Talent’ franchise alongside Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment.

Paul O’Hanlon

However, following Freemantle Asia’s decision to disband its production business in Asia two years ago, Sony’s AXN struck a multi-year, multi-series agreement with the company to take over production of Asia’s Got Talent.

Speaking at this year’s ContentAsia Summit in Singapore, O’Hanlon, who has since been employed by Sony to produce the second season, said: “Series one was a monster project. And back when I was at Freemantle, we decided that was what we really wanted to do. We didn’t just want Asia’s Got Talent to have that pan-regional approach, but to have a level of execution that went above and beyond anything that had been done before. So there were a lot of learnings on the way.

“We spent less than we did on series one. But we’re smart about it. Let’s address the elephant in the room: I spent too much money on the last series. Quite frankly, Cecile [Frot-Coutaz], the head of Freemantle worldwide said to me: ‘Paul, I don’t think we’ve ever done a show whereby we’ve made money on season one’.”

He added: “Freemantle bit the bullet on season one. This time, Sony has decided to take that risk and they are going to build confidence. It’s just about the time to bring back. It’s a winner.”

When asked about the decision to cut the number of judges from four to three, O’Hanlon stressed that cost was not a factor. “One of the challenges of having an even number of judges is that you can get two yesses and two nos, and that’s inevitable,” he said. “It’s more complex then to decide what you want to do. Sony made a decision to go from four to three. And we wanted to engage someone like Jay [Park, a Korean-American rapper], so it makes sense.”

Alongside Park, the judging panel will also consist of Canadian music producer David Foster and French-Indonesian singer Anggun. The previous season saw former Spice Girl Melanie C and Taiwanese superstar Vanness Wu sit on the panel alongside Foster and Anggun.

O’Hanlon added: “We didn’t want to just replicate season one. Readers will see there are a lot of similarities. What we have done is ensure we have a seamless integration between the linear content and the digital. In fact, we have produced more than 300 digital clips, of which some are for sponsors. The point is to keep the audience engaged between episodes.”

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