Make local video-on-demand known to the masses

I tuned in to Toggle for the first time last week. MediaCorp's video-on-demand and live TV service has been around for some time, but I did not check it out until recently, when the Toggle app could be downloaded on Xbox Live.

As a cord-cutter, I have not subscribed to StarHub cable TV or Singtel mioTV for several years. I watch Internet video-on-demand services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and YouTube, on my 50-inch Samsung TV through the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Apple TV and various PCs in my home.

Occasionally, I watch free-to-air channels via my digital set-top box, more to keep abreast of the nascent technology of digital broadcasting than for the news. As for local programming, I had not watched any locally produced show for years, until last week.

The quality of Made-In-Singapore variety shows and TV series are not quite Netflix-class but they can be entertaining.

I have watched about half the episodes of 5-Search, a competition to find the next hosting and acting star for MediaCorp.

Its judges are Singapore celebrities Tay Ping Hui, Selina Tan and Bryan Wong. It's down to the last five and I am looking forward to March 1 for the grand final.

I also caught the first episode of Interns, a Malay-language drama about three interns struggling with office politics at a local fashion design house where only one of them will land a full-time job.

I used to be fluent in Malay in my early teens when I first came to Singapore to study, but my second language is now like a ramshackle cottage. I was surprised that I could still understand all the conversation. The English subtitles helped (so my Netflix-addicted daughters were also watching with me) and the Malay was interlaced with generous servings of English.

Another MediaCorp programme that I have just started watching is 2025, a futuristic TV series with driverless cars and bowl-shaped touchscreen tablets.

This local programming sampler has given me a taste for more. But I could neither get recommendations from friends nor discuss the shows with them. None of my close friends in my social media circle knows a thing about Interns, 2025 or 5-Search.

Perhaps it is that the company I keep hardly watches free-to-air TV. When I told my colleagues at Digital Life about 2025, I was met with blank looks.

On Toggle, the shows are listed together in one giant group. Netflix, on the other hand, bases each user's content on what he has watched before and categorises them by genre - making it much easier to find relevant shows.

One of the cool things about Toggle is that you can watch all free-to-air TV channels live on your PC or via the Toggle app on the Xbox One and mobile devices. But this excludes much of Channel 5's non-local content. This means that Channel 5 on Toggle is not a replacement for free-to-air TV.

I suspect that the move to create more local programming and to stream it across a variety of platforms is largely driven by the Government's Public Service Broadcasting funding initiatives.

While such investment has certainly created much more home-grown programming, more attention needs to be paid to how it is marketed to the masses, especially to cord-cutters who no longer tune in to traditional TV.

This article was first published on Feb 18, 2015.
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