Singapore: Abundant Content Opportunities From Buying To Co-production

The island nation seen as gateway to rest of Asia, as decision makers are centred here

In a summary of Singapore’s most watched program genres, presented by Nielsen during the recent ATF Plugged-In Series 2020 (based on data from Singapore StarHub SmarTAM), Chinese programs take up a massive piece of the pie, followed by kids’ content, a tie with news and entertainment and closely followed by movies and education.

Source: Singapore StarHub SmarTAM. Date: 1 Jan–26 May 2020 consolidated (live+past 7 days).  Target: All 4+ in StarHub homes. Dayparts: All days 0600-2959.
Remark: Program Genre is based on the clients’ EPGs availability.


Yet, based on a poll done during the session, attendee profiles show that while drama and kids run in line with what buyers are looking for, doc/factual misses the mark in terms of supply and demand. However, opportunities abound, as Singapore is valued beyond its own market, serving as a gateway to the rest of the Asian region. 

Market representation of attendees to ATF PLUGGED-iN SERiES 2020 – Singapore Buyers & Commissioners Speak
Source: ATF  

Buyers focused on the Singapore market sat with those that looked at the region in a recent session that gave cause to adjust the lenses for clearer expectations and intentions.

Joy Olby-Tan, Lead, Acquisitions from Mediacorp noted that Singapore’s media scene is an interesting dichotomy based on its diverse mix of audiences. Success in engaging buyers has been accredited to having practical and pragmatic connection with the partners, trust and reliability, and ultimately fit business needs or build new business opportunities.

A common consideration across Asia for Ishaan Misra, Executive, Content Strategy & Acquisitions at Discovery when he acquires content, is that it has to be in line with what the company stands for – respect and tolerance for fellow human beings. Thus, he tends to stay away from content that harm religious and political sentiments.

Apart from this, he tends not to shy from any genre in particular. “Discovery is after all, a window to the world for most of our audiences, and we wouldn’t want to deprive them of anything,” Ishaan revealed. He believes that short form branded content meant for the digital audience will be the next big thing. While Ishaan personally loves to meet new distributors, he urges the industry to “know our brand and know what we stand for” before making contact.

This sentiment was reiterated by Mediacorp’s Joy, who encourages sellers to “know about us before we meet”, with added suggestions to be “reasonable and flexible”, as well as “open and creative”.

The session also touched extensively on the burgeoning realm of co-production, as Singapore is set up to be a gateway to such deals. “Singapore is setting up to be launch point for co-pros, with corporate infrastructure, the business atmosphere in the country, and the legal and finance protections in place here,” explained Justin Deimen, President, Production & Acquisition at 108 Media.

The intent to enter this domain will require an aptitude to get savvy with rights management, different financing mechanisms, and knowing how to work with IP ownership. “At the end of the day, licensing windows, how extensive your international structure is going to be in the co-pro, and how your IP creatively lends itself to a co-pro will be key.

“Balancing the reasons for a co-pro is going to be the biggest hurdle for any producer or production company – why does this need to be a co-pro? Can you not scale down the budget and work with one buyer? for example,” Justin illuminated.

As well, in an actual production, Singapore is a skip away from Malaysia and other ASEAN countries, where the production cost is value for money. “Not many people keep the entire equation in their heads when trying to make deals,” Justin concluded. “Co-pros is not so easy, but worth it; de-risking your own cost and expanding the marketplace.”

For the full recording of ATF’s PLUGGED-iN SERiES 2020 – Singapore Buyers & Commissioners Speak,

“Local is relevant, but we have made a small foray into physical Japanese gameshows that are brilliant, crazy, and funny. The challenge with finished Japanese products is that the multi-platform rights are not cleared thoroughly. As a multi-platform company, we do need such rights cleared.

“CNA's Japan Hour, for example, has been very successful.

“Dramas on FTA are large range, melodramatic, and family centric (Korean Taiwan), which includes costume period drama (China, HK), and contemporary drama (Korea, HK). English-speaking dramas of success includes the likes of Nancy Drew, NCIS, and The Good Doctor (US version), keeping in mind that FTA has fewer slots, so we are usually more selective. For our OTT, we have more volume, more partners.

“We also do acquire Thai and Indonesian films. Thai is great for horror and can also be for the Chinese channel – typically they don’t come readily dubbed in English or Chinese), so if they came ready with dub, it would be better. Our Suria channel is keener on Indonesian content.”

 Joy Olby-Tan, Lead, Acquisitions, Mediacorp

“Premium content will need to be co-produced. This part of the world will start to compete with ROW, so we will need to consolidate expertise. We have acquired some rights to overseas drama content, but it is being developed to work for bigger marketplaces like India and the Philippines, more so than Singapore. To focus just on Singapore alone, the cost to produce these would be incongruent to viewership; there is a high inherent cost, but all decision-making is in Singapore.

“Singapore is a good buildout for certain types of content, not all: animation, unscripted, and factual. Drama/fiction tend to have a more complicated journey, where co-pro would be a more possible route.

“If your main objective is to sell into China, HK will be a better bet, but Singapore works for the rest of Asia generally. Singapore is more a commissioning country.

“Creatively, what is unique in Singapore is the 2 big languages (English/Mandarin), where you get a big bite of second window licensing.

“From a personal standpoint, animation, drama and formats make sense as a co-pros and have been relatively successful.

“On risk analysis, we have a few mechanisms in place; if we’re excited about a project, we tend to bend the scopes to make it work. We are interested to work with channels around the world on TV, film, formats, and animation.

“If you’re from the US looking to co-produce, find partners in Singapore with a good track record, regional contact and build a financing plan.”

— Justin Deimen, President, Production & Acquisition, 108 Media

“Channel 8 has a lot more local productions, with about 20% foreign productions, and Channel U has 50% foreign, skewed to North Asia. We are definitely interested in adapted formats, and we are in fact on the hunt for good adapted drama series, but not all titles are suited for adaptation.

“Formats like The Good Doctor could work, or Netflix’s Hospital Playlist, where the formula is based on certain universal values that work across territories.

“Co-pro serves a strategic objective for us. It’s a very long process, a lot of coordination from both sides is required, as different countries, have different cultures etc. We do want to keep doing co-pro every year; we want to grow our team and put Mediacorp on a regional footprint. So it has to be win-win – a common vested interest to forge forward.

“Drama is a co-pro we’ve invested in, as it has a wide appeal and expanding viewership base. We are exploring formats as well for co pro, although we tend to be very selective. We want to work with partners with aligned goals, and have become increasingly interested in working with creative brains outside of Singapore, like in HK, Taiwan, China, and Korea.

“A definite no-no for us would be certain LGBT themes, where in the Singapore landscape will not work – especially at Mediacorp, being a national broadcaster, we will stay clear of political and national sensitivities. As for Chinese kids’ content, the growing influence of China sees a lot of emphasise by parents on the Chinese language, so there is a lot of demand for good quality Chinese content.”

— Rita Seow, Lead, Audience & Content, Chinese Audience, Mediacorp

“I deal with global genres that require international distributors. We have experimented with different food formats over time; the classic stand-and-stir food programs to food competition, and food and travel as well.

“As well, survival and adventure programs across Asia works well; there is a huge appetite for this genre still.

“With regards to Japanese content, Singapore audience enjoy Japanese culture, and cuisine, as well as Japanese gameshows.

“I also end up buying a lot of European content for Asia; their unfiltered approach mixed with genuine awe for our region works, like the Asian centric French program for the Asian region. Sometimes though, language is an issue.”

— Ishaan Misra, Executive, Content Strategy & Acquisitions, Discovery