Screen Singapore and the Asia Television Forum 2013: oh goody, a market..

With 70% of the world's population in the region, including a few billion people in economies not trampled by the Global Financial Collapse, an Asia-Pacific screen market is a harbinger of the future.
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With 70% of the world’s population in the region, including a few billion people in economies not trampled by the Global Financial Collapse, an Asia-Pacific screen market is a harbinger of the future. Dr O’D peruses the first day..

The Screen Singapore and the Asia Television Forum kicked off 24 hours early, with a full day seminar program on Tuesday 3 December at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, ahead of Wednesday’s official launch.

The Convention Centre is dwarfed by the neighbouring Marina Bay Sands Hotel. Its three towers are bridged by a boat-like structure that pays homage to the freighters that populate Keppel Harbour, and on the maritime trade that was the foundation of the wealth of the island city-state of Singapore.

The wags say the boat structure is an escape vessel for the rich and famous once the seal level rise, predicted to accompany global warming, engulfs the island.

The M & E industries

Tuesday’s seminar ranged widely, one of the most interesting contributions was from David McGregor of Ernst & Young, Australia. His subject: Digital Agility Now — Creating a High Velocity Media and Entertainment Organisation in the Age of Transformative Technology. It might have been shortened to: The Smarts for Success Today and Tomorrow.

McGregor started with a heap of facts and figures that the organisers said would interest the press. They did. There’ll be more analysis in a later column. McGregor cited an Ernst & Young study that said by 2017, the gross domestic product (GDP) of the Asia Pacific region (APAC) would outstrip the rest of the world. With rising affluence, consumers spending would skyrocket. Increased unbanisation and the population bubble of under 30s, especially, would drive the expansion of the M & E (media and entertainment) industries.

That’s a finding that guarantees returns on the millions being spent to build studio facilities like the Pinewood Iskander studios, in Johor Baru, Malaysia, or the Infinity Studio in Batam, Indonesia, where Serangoon Road was shot.

Last year, the APAC region accounted for 40 per cent of the world’s network capacity.

Government support and subsidies were driving network expansion and, by 2017, wireless networks sitting on broadband infrastructure would reach 48 per cent of the region’s population. Smart phone uptake would double, reaching 68 per cent by 2017, and the target network speeds for the urban areas of many countries was now 1,000 Mbs. (Are you listening Mr 25 Mbs Turnbull?)

China

Another clear element to emerge was the growing confidence of provincial and satellite television licensee in China to rival the Central China TV in programming.

Beryl Yan from Hunan Satellite Television proudly spoke of a program rating 4.79 percent. So what, you may ask? Then she mentioned the audience reach was 1 billion viewers. There was something of a contest on between Ms Yan and her rival Summer Zheng from Zhejiang Satellite Television to impress the audience with station performance figures. It was clear that the start-up Chinese satellite broadcasting sector is where the action is.

In a move to control the rising popularity of western television formats, especially talent shows, the SARFT (the state regulator of radio film and television), capped the on-air numbers last July. It also has set 9.30 pm, Monday to Thursday and 8.30 pm Friday, as the earliest times for western format programs. The probably impact is that a whole lot more Chinese are going to work without a good nights sleep.

South Korea

South Korean TV shows the consequences of sixty years of US television, a viewing staple since the Korean War. The programs show Western style and execution with a certain Korean flavor and is not Kim Chee.

In the session of South Korean fi, the first three of seven trailers, diverse in themselves, had echoes of Chinese opera about them, farce and high fantasy. Two more were fish-out-of-water formats, Grandpas Over Flower and Where Are We Going Dad? Both tapped into certain social anxieties. The first was about relations with older folk, the second was about fathers spending more time with their kids, the teaser revealing none of the dads had been alone with their kid for 24 continuous hours in their lives. Both reality shows have the slick production values we are familiar with.

However The Genius Game was something special. A kind of intellectual Survivor or as the Korean producer put it, Big Brother without walls. It was a concept BBC 4 probably rejected as too intellectual, Mensa candidates in brain to brain combat, but, in the trailer at least. It worked.

The Genius Game, either the format or the original could easily find a place on Australian television.

Animation

The challenge thrown up by last year’s inaugural Animation Summit has been answered by the Asian Television Forum this year, with the launch of the ATF Animation Lab.

Like the Summit, that runs next week in Phuket, the Animation Lab is a pitch pad, with 35 shortlisted projects of the 45 submitted, looking for investors in one-on-one meetings. There are just two Australian projects, but unlike the summit, there are many projects from, India, South Korea and the Philippines. Perhaps the two events can learn to live in harmony.

Hopeful producers pitch to a panel of commissioners and financiers who come from Turner International, the BBC, ZDF Germany, the Walt Disney Company, Viacom International and the ABC. I suspect the same line-up will be there in Phuket next week maximising their investment of the airfare.

There’s a lot of talk about kids TV, the key element of both the ATF Animation Lab and next week’s Asian Animation Summit. The BBC’s trailer for its CBBEE kids channel put a big emphasis on trust. Who do you trust to leave your kids with when they are watching TV? This, too, seems to tap into an anxiety among parents, who, especially in the growing APAC region, have less time for nurturing.

For example, here in Singapore, a housewife or househusband is a rarity. Having both parents a work is the norm, and child care centres are big business. Television is a minder for those parents who can’t afford after school care, so trust is a big issue. Of growing interest, too, is cultural appropriateness, but that is a secondary issue until children reach around four years of age. But then, cultural sensitivity, and the issue of overt western values, become more of an issue.

Yesterday’s presentation, ‘How Production Incentives Stimulate local Film Industry Growth? [sic] was interesting but I’m not sure the question mark is appropriate. More of that and other presentations, later.

Dr Vincent O`Donnell
About the Author
Dr Vincent O`Donnell is a historian who produces `Arts Alive`, the national arts and culture current affairs radio program, an honorary fellow of RMIT University School of Media & Communication, and the University of Melbourne`s School of Historical and Philosophical Studies.