'Made-in-Singapore' content gains traction globally

By ANIMATION XPRES... | 15 February, 2010 - 12:11

    2010 has started off on an optimistic note with a busy slate of international collaborations for several media companies. Many were projects unveiled at the Asian Media Festival held in Singapore in early December 2009.

    Collaborations to watch include the first-ever Singapore-China-United Kingdom HD documentary called Monumental Challenge, a six-part series that tracks the restoration of six of the world's greatest monuments; two co-productions between Singapore-based MyChinaChannel and the Shanghai Media Group and three pipeline projects between Singapore and Australian media companies. Also promising is the tie-up between Singapore venture capitalist firm Thymos Capital and Japan's Technology Seed Incubation. The two firms plan to seek out promising media companies in Singapore and Japan to co-develop and distribute mobile games and applications, new media technologies and animation co-productions, for the global market.

    The range of these initiatives points to Singapore's increasingly successful efforts at touting its own brand of media expertise and technology globally. Events like the annual Asian Media Festival and the coup of hosting SIGGRAPH for its inaugural Asian foray in 2008, as well as the World Cyber Games, cement its newfound status as a potentially important player in the global interactive and digital media industry, just as its market focus shifts to the Asian region.

    According to Peter Stiles, the director for digital media at the Australian Film, TV and Radio School who was in Singapore recently, Singapore can capitalise on its currency by developing original Asian media content.

    "As a place between the West and China, Singapore can help to develop content that will be consumed by Asian audiences. Rather than becoming a 'service-based' industry for the US or Japan, the aim should be to initiate and develop your own content relevant to Asian audiences," he said.

    Singapore is coming on especially strong in the animation sphere. In just five years since 2003, the number of animation studios and distributors in the republic has quadrupled. Several made-in-Singapore productions have been bought and broadcast to international audiences.

    Southern Star Entertainment, Australia's largest independent television group, has built up a strong creative team in Singapore. After producing several seasons of the hit children's animation series, The Adventures of Bottle Top Bill, the group's studios in Singapore and Sydney are currently working on the new Bananas In Pajamas animated series for Australian Broadcasting Corporation, expected to be the largest and most expensive animated series in Australian television history.

    A hint at the growing maturity of the market is that more companies are venturing from fee-for-service work to owning the creative and intellectual property rights of their creations. At MIPTV2009 in Cannes, Singapore debuted three children's animated titles. One particularly well-received series was Dinosaur Train, a co-production between the renowned Jim Henson Company and Singapore's Sparky Animation. The series was slated for broadcast on PBS Kids Channel in the United States in September last year and will potentially be aired in Norway, Canada, Australia, Germany and France.

    Singapore's media companies are also banking on its bilingual advantage to make inroads into China. Last November the Media Development Authority of Singapore led a group of 30 media companies on a business mission covering major Chinese digital media companies and research centres in Beijing, Shanghai and Shaanxi.

    Among several deals sealed were the launch of a Chinese version of a popular made-in-Singapore social networking game and the digitization of Chinese television content by a Singapore service provider.

    Apart from its pole position in the conduit of east-west trade, Singapore has taken a strong stand against piracy and actively enforces its strict intellectual property laws, a huge selling point among content creators. Plus, it boasts a reliable business infrastructure, an open-door visa program for attracting skilled global talent and abundant resources for science and technology that can easily support the ever more sophisticated demands of the IDM industry. Throw in the government's enthusiasm in building the IDM industry into 'big business' - an enthusiasm manifested in policy support and funding seldom seen elsewhere especially in austere economic times - and you have an incredibly fertile environment for IDM companies to flourish.

    "Singapore understands both the culture of China and the US and this is a huge strategic advantage," commented Stiles of the next stage of growth. "Small start ups should be encouraged in the areas of mobile, internet and interactive and advertising services. There is great potential in these areas, particularly in Asia."

    For more information on working and living in Singapore, visit Contact Singapore's newly revamped website at www.contactsingapore.sg.