MediaCorp’s Jong Sees Technological, Geographical Expansion for Singapore-Based Broadcaster
MediaCorp is the largest broadcaster in Singapore, and with Singapore likely to be one of the early adopters of 3-D TV in the Asia-Pacific region, MediaCorp likely will be at the cutting edge of the technology. MediaCorp also plans to launch a channel in North America in 2011 as part of the operator to move beyond its Singaporean roots.
Chang Long Jong, deputy CEO, Television, MediaCorp, discussed the challenges ahead and how the broadcaster will build on its already strong position in its home market and become one of the strongest media companies in Asia.
VIA SATELLITE: What are the major initiatives that MediaCorp is working on for content delivery?
Jong: We are looking to launch our own branded channels overseas which exploits the long tail strategy of appealing to niche audiences in the worldwide market. Plans are in place to launch a drama channel next year in North America, and an entertainment channel is in the pipeline. With the centralization of our distribution unit, which sells all MediaCorp-produced content across genres, we have been able to explore a lot more initiatives and opportunities beyond our current markets/language. We have begun looking to the North America, European and Middle Eastern markets. A new area of success and opportunity for us is in the kids genre. We have distributed to Astro in Malaysia and are working on further collaboration and distribution in Malaysia.
Another phenomenon that is delivering our content to the worldwide market is the Internet. The Web has opened up a new delivery channel for our content. The Internet needs content, and they need it in high volumes. We have syndicated our content to partners such as Baidu in China.
VIA SATELLITE: What are MediaCorp’s plans in 3-D TV?
Jong: As the national broadcaster, we are constantly exploring new avenues to deliver valued content for our viewers. We are monitoring the developing trends in 3-D TV technology. As there are currently various standards, MediaCorp will conduct trials once there is more certainty on the prevailing technology standard. As we are still in the frontier of development, it will be some time before it becomes widely adopted. Like how we have done for high-definition a few years back, we will introduce 3-D slowly to our viewers and listen to their feedback so as to understand the characteristics of 3-D viewing. One challenge could be the fact that viewers will have to wear expensive glasses to watch 3-D, which might affect its potential for wide adoption, even though the price of 3-D TV might drop. Currently, there are several standards with passive and active glasses, and there might be a day where glasses would not be needed at all for 3-D viewing. This is quite different with the advent of HD, where major markets embrace the technology which quickly became the industry standard. We do see 3-D in the future, but for now, we are thinking of ways to fully exploit HD to engage our viewers from a technological point of view.
VIA SATELLITE: What are your plans to produce more content in HD?
Jong: We have so far invested close to $20 million into acquisition of HD equipment and facilities to build our HD production capability. The cost of HD production is still significantly higher in the case of drama productions. For example, the cost of an HD set for dramas is almost three times that of an SD set. In 2008, we produced about 50 hours of HD shows, comprising mostly infotainment, documentaries and docudramas, as well as 100 hours of co-production dramas. Last year, we increased our local HD output to about 200 hours, mostly dramas. We also co-produced another 200 hours dramas in China. [Singapore’s Media Development Authority] has supported MediaCorp largely in content production to enable us to produce a lot more HD content than we would otherwise do because of cost consideration. We intend to switch fully to digital broadcasting in Singapore in the next four to five years. At this time, we also intend to fully adopt the HD standard for all our channels.
VIA SATELLITE: What do you see as the main growth drivers for your business?
Jong: Just like many other industries, the TV ad market was not spared by the downturn last year, where we registered a negative growth for ads during the first half. However, we had in place measures to manage costs. These measures, together with government initiatives to aid businesses helped us stay on target and without needing to resort to drastic measures. The second half of last year has seen signs of recovery since July/August. The ad market is slowly but surely recovering, and we enjoyed a strong last quarter with the year-end festivities. We have just about recovering from the recession and hope that this momentum will continue for the rest of the year. Despite the emergence of new platforms and channels in recent years on the Singaporean TV landscape, our FTA channels continue to perform strongly as before in the face of fierce competition, garnering about 93 percent weekly reach on all channels. Our MediaCorp channels still attract as many viewers during primetime and enjoy close to 70 percent of total TV audience share during primetime comparable to last year.
VIA SATELLITE: What is the next phase of MediaCorp’s growth strategy?
Jong: We will continue to strengthen our TV channels’ position as the dominant TV experience during primetime as well as expanding our content to new platforms. And of course, central to all these, we will continue to produce good quality local original content.
VIA SATELLITE: How do you see the broadcast landscape changing in Singapore over the next 12 months?
Jong: Our goals in the next year will be to ensure we recover in tandem with the economy and be well-positioned to embark on the next level of growth. As always, we will strive to be relevant to Singaporeans and find new ways to reach, entertain and enrich their lives. In line with our vision of becoming Asia’s top media company, we want to grow our business beyond Singapore, be it in distribution, content production, etc. We would like to have growth not just for original content in Singapore, but we also like to see content development in the region with our expanding business and influence in the future. As such, we have already tapped the resources and talent base in Malaysia to produce programs and do important development work for MediaCorp. A major development in Singapore which will have a big impact on us will be the launch of our national Next Generation Broadband Network (NGBN). Needless to say, the NGBN infrastructure will open up new windows of opportunity for us, and we are watching its development with a close eye to see how we can offer new services and create a greater level of enhancement and interactivity with our consumers.