Singapore's MediaCorp eyes greater visibility in ASEAN

THAILAND - Singapore is playing a leading role in ASEAN's creative economy while building a regional brand by distributing its own cultural and entertainment content as well as collaborating with local production houses.

Singapore's leading media company, Media Corporation, sees huge opportunities in the rise of pay-TV and the transitioning to digital terrestrial TV in many ASEAN countries including Thailand.

"Thailand is our new entry market. I think there are several business opportunities. The first is content licensing. We want to sell more content for the Thai audience," Doreen Neo, managing director of MediaCorp Studios, told The Nation last week.

"The second is the area of co-production. If we have an opportunity to co-produce, we will," she said.

MediaCorp Studios is in charge of TV production, artist management and international distribution for MediaCorp. It also has a co-production company in Malaysia.

Another area was format licensing. MediaCorp Studios just sold "The Arena" to Thai Public Broadcasting Service (Thai PBS).

"The Arena-Thailand" is a debate series with a modern twist. Students from various schools compete against each other while the judges and audience decide who they think deserves to win. There are a dozen 55-minute episodes.

In 2010, Thai PBS purchased its first Singapore period-drama series titled "Little Nyonya" from MediaCorp Studios. Due to its beautiful story about people's lives during the Peranakan era, there was never any doubt that the series would become popular among the Thai audience. Another MediaCorp Studios period series now airing on Thai PBS is "A Song to Remember".

"On top of that, I'd really love to have a channel here [Thailand]," she said.

Its collaboration with Indovision TV, a leading direct-to-home satellite TV operator in Indonesia, is a good example. In 2011, MediaCorp launched its Channel 8i (International) on this pay-TV network.

The company was also in talks with several leading pay-TV operators in Thailand and a deal is expected to be sealed soon.

Cambodia and Vietnam are also key markets in ASEAN, but the biggest market where the company wants to make its reputation known and its presence felt is China. The biggest project, called "The Journey", is a crucial part of this ambitious plan. The trilogy will be launched in November, tracing the history of the Republic of Singapore through drama.

This three-year project is divided into three chapters.

The first is set from 1920-1940 when immigrants from China's southern provinces moved to Singapore. The story shows how they built their family, built their business and how hard it was to start a business. This shows the first generation of Singapore.

Then next year in November, the company will roll out the second chapter, which is set from 1940-1965. This will depict Japanese aggression towards Singapore during World War II and the lead-up to independence.

The third chapter will portray Singapore from post-independence to the present day.

"We are trying to translate the historic events into drama," she said.

Singapore has something different to offer, unlike South Korea, which uses entertainment and cultural contents to drive tourism.

"We aim to use this to promote the Singapore brand," she said.

The Media Development Authority of Singapore plays a crucial role in supporting and funding media projects not only for local content developers but also overseas film and TV production firms.

It helps Singaporean production houses ranging from small to large companies to meet potential customers or TV broadcasters abroad.

With quality contents and full support from the government, it is for Singapore's media company to be a key player in Asia's creative economy.