Q&A with MDA’s Angeline Poh


NEW YORK: Angeline Poh, assistant chief executive (industry) at the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), tells TV AsiaPac about how the MDA is not only helping Singaporean companies to expand globally; it’s also enticing international media firms to come to the island nation through a variety of initiatives.

TV ASIAPAC: Documentary has traditionally been one of Singapore’s strongest genres. Are you seeing gains in other areas?
POH: You’re right, Singapore has, over the last 15 to 20 years, really built itself up in terms of being the location in Asia that produces high-quality factual programming. National Geographic, A+E Networks and Discovery have all done shows with Singaporean production companies. They’ve built up relationships with independent producers in Singapore such that they work with them to help manage productions they do elsewhere in Asia. From that base, [which we have] in animation as well, we’ve actually seen a diversification of the skill sets of the independent producers in Singapore. We have companies like Refinery Media and activeTV that are in Singapore doing established formats like The Amazing Race and also coming up with original formats like Supermodelme. Now we’re seeing the new frontier being broached in terms of drama. HBO Asia was the first with Serangoon Road, a 10-part series. Now  they’re doing Grace, a horror mini­series. For Grace, HBO Asia decided to work with Infocus Asia, which is better known for factual. For Infocus Asia to get into drama was an eye-opener. The end product is a good mix of that East-West sensibility that Singapore brings to the table—under­standing what the international broadcasters and programmers are looking for that’s consistent with their brand, and at the same time injecting a sense of Asianness into the content.

TV ASIAPAC: What are you hearing from your delegates about the opportunities they’re seeing in the global market?
POH: If you look at the linear free-to-air or pay-TV [business], the opportunities would grow now that the market is heating up [as channels commission more content from Asia]. There is a lot more content out there, a lot more different kinds of formats that are starting to gain traction. Also, everyone has their eye on what’s happening in the nonlinear, digital world—everything from streaming to on-demand to OTT and mobile. The primary platform for a program could still be a linear free-to-air play, but then you have a nonlinear element in terms of either a second-screen application or just engagement via social media. How do you use Twitter, Facebook…[to build] a fan base for your content, for your brand? Those are exciting new trends that we’re starting to see in the marketplace. In Asia, mobile is a big phenomenon. In some markets, people are more likely to have a cell phone than maybe a TV or a computer. What does that mean from a content perspective? How do you get content to otherwise previously inaccessible segments of the audience? Those are interesting opportunities for content companies.

TV ASIAPAC: What are some of the highlights of the Singapore Media Festival (SMF) this year?
POH: SMF has four key events: Asia TV Forum, ScreenSingapore, the Asian Television Awards and, added this year, the Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF). This is [SGIFF’s] 25th year [after returning from] a two-year hiatus. We’re coming back with almost 100 film [screenings]. The opening movie is a Singaporean film from a first-time feature director, Ken Kwek, [called Unlucky Plaza]. There’s going to be a spotlight on an Egyptian director [Ahmad Abdalla] and his film Decor. What’s really exciting for us is to see this combination of film and TV, and to bring together all the buyers and sellers with Asian filmmakers.

TV ASIAPAC: What are some of your other priorities for the MDA heading into 2015?
POH: We’ve always been very strong advocates of supporting our companies and content, to [help them] get into the international market and strike strategic relationships with like-minded partners. A lot of [international companies] do look at Singapore as a partner for producing content for Asia, but also increasingly for content that can travel. This year we had the privilege of hosting two very high-end Hollywood shoots, for Hitman: Agent 47 and Equals. That’s bringing yet another dimension of international partnerships to the mix as we strike new relationships with the film majors. I don’t think Singapore is just a filming location, just a pretty backdrop for a film that needs an Asian setting. [We’re] really looking at opportunities to work with studios with interesting scripts where being in Singapore, being in Asia, is integral to the story.