Singapore's market size forces local media players to build up audience base in region

Economy August 23, 2014 01:00

By Watchiranont Thongtep
The Nat

4,523 Viewed

With the size of the market another huge challenge for both film and TV broadcasting business in Singapore, film-makers and TV production houses are eyeing overseas markets and seeking to develop a regional audience base.

Given Singapore’s population of about 5.4 million, each film and TV content producer must ensure that its revenue stream can recoup the investment it puts in.
The Media Development Authority (MDA) and the industry undeniably understand this, so they are looking into overseas market development via international partnerships and collaboration to extend their overall market size.
Media content, excluding games, is culture-centric and the authority therefore looks to neighbouring countries such as Malaysia as natural markets for locally produced content, said Joachim Ng, MDA director for industry operations.
Following this direction, local companies have strengthened industry relationships with their Malaysian partners. 
The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia (FINAS), Malaysia’s film agency and authority, hosted a match-making event for Singaporean and Malaysian delegates at “MIPCOM” in Cannes in order for them to explore business opportunities and new ventures. 
More than 180 guests ranging from producers and broadcasters to financiers and distributors attended the reception.
Early this year, MediaCorp jointly produced a new Malay TV drama series under a joint-venture agreement with Malaysia’s Media Prima. The 13-episode series, named “Kasih Berbisik” (Whispers of the Heart), is scheduled to be aired on Malaysia’s TV3 and on MediaCorp’s Suria channel, a Malay-language TV station.
In preparation for broadening the market in the future, Doreen Neo, managing director of MediaCorp Studios, said MediaCorp would increase the number of English programmes aired on Channel 5 from 200 hours a year to 600-700 hours in the next three years.
Chinese-language TV content and films are also very important, and the MDA targets Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China as its top markets.
However, although Singapore’s film and TV content producers can reach wider overseas markets, the industry’s production capacity and pool of talent are still limited due to the size of the sector. 
To achieve the goal of a sustainable regional creative hub, capacity-building is a fundamental and necessary component of the industry, she said.
The MDA has been shifting its focus to being a promoter, besides being a regulator, by streamlining the funding schemes to better serve the industry. 
During its 2012 fiscal year, the authority supported 965 projects through various grants to help companies develop and produce content, up-skill talent as well as market their content overseas to international buyers, across all media sectors. 
Some 271 of the projects were in the field of broadcasting, while 154 projects were for film.
However, the film and broadcasting industry still needs specific skills.
Neo said MediaCorp Studios needed to improve its English- and Chinese-language TV programmes in order to meet international requirements, and some scriptwriters required more training from overseas experts.
Derek Judge, treasurer of the Screenwriters Association (Singapore), said local companies should support a diverse working environment in order to broaden the size of the industry. 
For example, some companies have a film director who is also working as screenwriter, scriptwriter – or even actor.
Juan Foo, a veteran film producer, said the industry needed more intellectual-property content creators in order to produce material that provided a unique selling point for Singapore’s films.
Not only is each quality individual talent important for the industry’s sustainable growth, but the power of professional groups can also determine and direct the sector, he said.  
Another key challenge in this regard is how to keep young talent in the industry.
Ng said that with other vibrant industries such as finance, manufacturing, tourism and logistics providing good job prospects, the media sector had to complete for the best available talent.
In conclusion, building up the pool of quality home-grown film and TV content producers is absolutely crucial for this island-state in terms of achieving its goal of becoming a sustainable creative and media hub.
Note: This is the final part of a five-part series. The first four parts were published from August 18-21. 
The series was written as part of the author’s participation in the 2014 Asia Journalism Fellowship, a three-month training programme for 16 senior journalists across Asia, under the Temasak Foundation and Nanyang Technological University. The programme ran from March to June in Singapore.