Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has made an unusual move in Vietnam: it's made a reality TV show to boost tourism in the country. The show, Let's Feast Vietnam, began streaming in Asia on Netflix on August 15 and is also being shown on Asian video on demand channels.
The 10-episode show features 14 content creators from six different countries who travel through Vietnam, enjoying the scenery, learning the culinary arts and taking on various missions. They're accompanied by a collection of celebrity and influencer commentators, and their reels and behind-the-scenes footage will be made available on Meta's social networks. The contestants are competing for the top prize of around $21,000.
Let's Feast Vietnam is a collaboration between Meta, Vietnam's BHD Media and the Vietnamese government Ministry of Culture, Sport & Tourism. While there isn't yet any confirmation about when it will be made available globally to stream, don't expect it to make our best Netflix show list as we don't tend to rate reality shows highly.
Meta's making friends, but not everyone is happy
According to Khoi Lee, country director at Meta, "this is a continuation of Meta’s efforts in making international friends in a new and effective way... [it's helping with] promoting the development of the post-pandemic digital economy, especially the tourism industry, building the national brand of Vietnam as a safe, friendly and attractive destination."
Vietnam is an important market for Meta, with a very online population of 97 million people, and Meta's priority areas for the country in 2023 include growing its video business, especially Reels. Let's Feast Vietnam is a great way of doing that, with fans of the show then consuming content on Facebook and Instagram.
Meta's Vietnamese ambitions haven't been without criticism, however. In an echo of tech firms' dealings with China in recent years, where tech firms' commitment to freedom of speech seemed to take second place to their plans to make money in big markets, Meta has been criticised for its links with the authoritarian Vietnamese government.
As the Washington Post reported (the story is behind a paywall) in June 2023: "the social media giant Meta, which owns Facebook, has been making repeated concessions to Vietnam’s authoritarian government, routinely censoring dissent and allowing those seen as threats by the government to be forced off the platform." That's according to sources including former employees and human rights groups.
Meta isn't the only tech giant treading lightly in Vietnam. As the Washington Post reports, Google has complied with the vast majority of Vietnamese government takedown requests, and TikTok has taken down several hundred too. But Meta is much bigger because Facebook is massive in Vietnam: more than 70% of the population use Facebook to share content, send messages and run their businesses. It has more users than any rival and has the lion's share of the digital ad market in the country. That's a feast Meta would clearly like to continue.
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.