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Threats to Singapore’s media industry are opportunities: IMDA board member

Elena Torrijos
Singapore Media Festival chairman and Info-communications Media Development Authority board member Rob Gilby. (Photo credit: Singapore Media Festival)

Singapore’s media industry is facing threats from the rise of digital content through new distribution platforms such as social media and over-the-top (OTT) video platforms.

The threats, however, also represent opportunities for the industry to grow, said Robert Gilby, board member of the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) and chairman of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF).

“What’s causing disruption, the biggest aspect, is just the use of new technologies, and that is an opportunity,” Gilby said in an interview with Yahoo Finance Singapore on the sidelines of the opening of the Asia TV Forum & Market and ScreenSingapore 2017 at Marina Bay Sands on Wednesday (29 November).

Gilby, who was formerly Disney’s Managing Director for Southeast Asia, believes the opportunities reveal themselves in many different ways. For example, new technology has brought down the cost to create content, as people can now create high-definition videos on their phones at a fraction of what it would have cost years ago.

While new technology has changed distribution aspects and challenged business models, he argued that it has also helped content creators.

Southeast Asia video-on-demand service provider HOOQ is one such content creator that has benefited from technological advancement. It has commissioned films across the region through its Filmmakers Guild, “giving people a bit more time and space to breathe” if the filmmakers aren’t able to get their movies into theatres, he pointed out.

In the US, Gilby noted that OTT platforms are investing billions of dollars in creating content and ushering what some call a new golden age of television. “So we have so much more content than we’ve ever created before,” he noted.

Turning to Asia, Gilby highlighted how the market for content has evolved, citing the discussion among OTT platform executives in the‘Evolution of Storytelling’ panel that he moderated during the ATF Leaders Summit on Tuesday (29 November). “An interesting theme came out,” he said. “There’s an increasing push and demand and expectation and enjoyment of locally-created content.”

Aside from giving people in the region more and innovative ways to distribute their content, such a push is raising the ability of people to focus on quality. “So the quality of local productions across the region just keeps rising, the standard, the story writing is improving, the production values are improving, and that’s resulting in great shows,” he said.

On where Singapore has a competitive advantage in the industry, Gilby believes it is in continuing to act as a hub to foster collaboration among media players in the region. That role will give more opportunities for Singapore talent and raise the country’s competitiveness, he said.

One other area that Singapore can be particularly competitive in – and which is a priority for development for the IMDA – is in immersive media in the form of augmented reality and virtual reality, he said.

He cited IMDA’s partnership with Discovery Networks Asia Pacific, which started earlier this year. The first two titles of a series of virtual reality titles created by Singapore companies were announced by the government on Wednesday morning.

Through new technology, Singapore’s media industry can be a pioneer in providing the public with a more engaging media experience, he noted.