Seizing opportunities in a digital future

By Angeline Poh

A landscape of opportunities

Viewers of all ages have started to embrace the flexibility digital media brings. It is a changing media world where viewers are in control, evident with the increasing popularity of over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as YouTube and Netflix. Both content creators and broadcasters now have to evolve to stay relevant.

It is in this current landscape where media content and technology play complementary roles to drive consumer experiences that we can see abundant opportunities for Asia. Both traditional channels and new OTT players are reaching out to the burgeoning Asian markets and hunting for unique stories from the region.

Media players and talent in Asia are well-positioned to harvest these opportunities by unlocking the value of our markets, stories and creativity.

Singapore’s BananaMana Films is an example of a media company that has leveraged this opportunity by creating English-language Asian content for online platforms. Its original Web series, Perfect Girl, was picked up by Netflix. The company’s first full-length feature, Jimami Tofu, also secured pre-sales agreements with international buyers including South Korean media giant iHQ, Japanese global TV platform VIKI and Encore Inflight.

Encouraging experimentation and innovation

The Info-communications and Media Development Authority (IMDA), formed from the former IDA and MDA, was established last year to chart Singapore’s path for the digital future.

We seek to spur innovation and creativity to stay ahead of trends and thrive in a digital age. Broadcasters and OTT players alike are looking for new ways to vie for viewership, and some players, including Netflix and Amazon, have turned to investing heavily in fresh content. They are also making a strong global push, with Netflix launching its services in more than 130 countries covering most of Asia last year, and Amazon rolling out its video streaming service into more than 200 countries, including Singapore and India.

To keep up with the growing demand for unique, original stories, we recognise the need to nurture a new generation of content creators.

We have thus launched PIXEL Studios, the first dedicated facility in Singa­pore to spur the next generation of digital content creators and media professionals. We want to encourage them to explore innovative ways of content creation and storytelling. We are also working with global partners and leaders in the industry — among them, Maker Studios — to run programmes to train talent, such as Spark by Maker.

The event, which ran in December 2016, brought content creators from Singapore and the region together with international online stars such as the Fung Brothers, to learn and collaborate on new content ideas.
Our other partners such as Samsung and leading global style network StyleHaul will also bring their expertise and resources to the creator community at PIXEL Studios.

Investing in talent and deepening capabilities

Investing in our creative talent and opening opportunities for them to hone their craft and develop new skills is another one of our key focus areas. To this end, IMDA is working with international broadcast and media players based in Singapore to deepen the capabilities of our talent, and encourage the creation of original TV content for a global audience.

Some of our partners include Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, Fox Networks Group and HBO Asia, who will hone the capabilities of our talent in tapping technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) to create even more engaging content. Through these partnerships, talent will also be able to showcase their works to a global audience.

Our international partners also benefit from these initiatives as they can tap on the creativity and expertise of Singapore’s multi-cultural talent to develop new stories that will resonate with an Asian audience.

Creating more avenues for our stories to reach a wider audience

Besides deepening the capabilities of our talent to develop content for a global audience, it is also important to create avenues for their stories to be discovered.

As such, we have formed partnerships with online platforms such as Singapore’s national broadcaster Mediacorp’s OTT video platform, Toggle, to launch 11 original short-form online video content on Toggle. We are also working with Singa­pore Press Holdings (SPH) to produce short-form content on themes ranging from current affairs to culture, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, which will be available on SPH’s digital platforms.

IMDA also partnered Viddsee, a home-grown online entertainment channel, to launch a new Singapore Film Channel, to showcase diverse and unique stories from both up and coming Singaporean filmmakers and veterans alike, to the wider online audience.

IMDA also hosts the annual Singapore Media Festival (SMF) as another platform to showcase content from Singapore and the region. The festival, which focuses on celebrating Asian storytelling, concluded its third edition last December with a successful run, drawing more than 20,000 media and creative thought-leaders and fans across the TV, film and digital industry, and securing over US$244 million worth in deals and partnerships.

We also introduced a keystone digital event called SMF Ignite, which casts a spotlight on current digital trends. The one-day event provided online content creators and infocomm media professionals with practical insights on content creation and monetisation opportunities across fashion and beauty, VR, gaming and e-sports.

Data as the new enabler

To effectively engage with audiences in today’s digital age, we need to know what they want and what type of content works for them. Data analytics is a powerful tool that can provide content creators with valuable audience insights to help them make more informed creative and business decisions.

Recognising the importance of understanding audiences, IMDA has launched an official source of TV audience measurement in Singapore, called the Singapore Television Audience Measurement (SG-TAM) system.

Operated and managed by our partner, GfK, the system measures content shown on free-to-air TV, pay-TV, online and mobile devices, to help media industry players keep pace with the evolving TV consumption habits in Singapore. Through this, we want to enable our companies to tailor good content for audiences based on consumer insights.

At the end of the day, we believe that compelling content, brought together by talent, driven by innovation and under­scored by relevant technological platforms and consumer insights, are what is needed to win in today’s competitive media landscape. We will continue to work with our industry partners and invest in efforts to position Singapore as one of the leaders in content and innovation in a digital future.

Angeline Poh is Assistant Chief Executive Officer for Content and Innovation at the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore. She is also an APB Panellist.