MDA’s Angeline Poh

SINGAPORE: Angeline Poh, the assistant CEO for industry at the Media Development Authority (MDA), speaks about her ambitions for Singaporean media companies in the year ahead.

WS: I know it’s been a lot of hard work for Singapore to be recognized as a content provider to the global market. What are some of the strategies that aided in this effort?
POH: We’ve been working on building our media industry and focusing on deepening our capabilities to produce and deliver high-quality productions that resonate with audiences. It’s been a long journey. There are no shortcuts to success on that front. It’s been 15 or more years since we started putting in the effort to build an international track record. Prior to that we were doing a lot of things for the domestic market. Around the late 1990s and early 2000s, we started working with international networks like Discovery and National Geographic, and we never looked back.

Today we’re very proud to say that we have a stable of production companies and talent who are able to be real partners with these networks to deliver high-quality programs. We have production companies that are able to secure commissions directly from the networks in the U.S. We even now have production companies producing programs for our local free-to-air broadcaster that are getting interest from international broadcasters. One example is Wild City by Beach House Pictures. It’s about wildlife in urban Singapore. It’s become a format that other cities have said they could do. It was also a coup that Beach House was able to get Sir David Attenborough to narrate Wild City.

We feel like we’ve made some progress and have had some achievements, but the landscape is changing. We’ve got new types of commissioners—OTT, SVOD, AVOD, online video—so what does that mean from a production standpoint and from a concept-development standpoint? When you’re in nonlinear and there are no commercial breaks, how do you script for that? How do you engage the audience in a 360-degree way through social media? Just when we thought we’d figured it out, we found new things to learn. It never stops. We have established ourselves as a partner of choice for networks that want to do high-quality pan-regional international programs. If you look at shows like MasterChef Asia, Asia’s Got Talent, Asia’s Next Top Model, a lot of them are done in Singapore or by companies [based] in Singapore. We are recognized now for our ability to deliver on our promise, but we don’t rest on our laurels—there’s still a long way ahead to ensure that we continue to remain relevant to the commissioners and to audiences.

WS: Are animation and factual still Singapore’s key strengths? Do you see other genres emerging as strong suits?
POH: Factual is definitely a strong suit, and also formats. In animation, we have seen the industry evolve to a point where we have companies generating their own IP, taking those projects to the market and working on the licensing and merchandising on their own. It’s another step forward for the industry.

In terms of drama, it’s a little bit newer for our industry, but we see promise. HBO Asia is starting to do a lot of originals out of Asia. Last year they had Grace, and this year they’ve got Halfworlds. I think there’s going to be a lot of potential for drama that could resonate across the region.

WS: Looking ahead to 2016, what are some of your strategic priorities for the MDA?
POH: Continuing to help companies build their capabilities to deliver quality programs. We’re also going to start exploring more in the nonlinear space. We’re going to open Creators’ Space, a shared facility that will draw in and build a community of online video creators. It’s going to have production studios and working spaces. If we look beyond the infrastructure and the space itself, we’re really trying to build a community of creators and put together a series of programs to develop our next generation of storytellers. We’re building the ecosystem with creators at the core but bringing partners on board. They could be MCNs, advertising agencies, brand owners. We really do feel that future filmmakers, TV producers and storytellers are going to come from this space.

WS: What are some of the highlights for this year’s Singapore Media Festival (SMF)?
POH: Like last year, we have the Asia Television Forum & Market (ATF), ScreenSingapore, the Asian Television Awards and the Singapore International Film Festival. We have one new addition, Digital Matters. We really felt like we needed to remain relevant and keep in step with where the industry was going and Digital Matters brings a new dimension—online video, YouTube stars, looking at the industry from a UGC fan perspective. We’re going to be bringing in YouTube stars from the U.S. and the region. We’re going to have workshops for aspiring online video creators. We’ll have workshops that connect brands and creators. The incumbent events are also strengthening their digital focus. There are going to be a lot more labs and workshops for content creators and producers. ATF has a very strong track for producers. This includes TV master classes, including sessions by Melodie L. Shaw from the Writers Guild of America and Dave Winnan, executive producer for international formats at ITV Studios. Industry experts including Lee Deok-Jae, president of CJ E&M Media Content Bureau, and Steve Macallister, CEO of all3media international, will also feature as keynote speakers for the ATF pre-market conference. This is going to be a really strong year for SMF.