What do Tanglin, Code of Law, Mata Mata, I Not Stupid, Crime Watch, Elle, 8 Days and iWeekly have in common? They are all TV shows, magazines published, produced or aired by divisions belonging to the Singapore media giant Mediacorp. The broadcaster has seven TV channels, 11 radio stations, digital assets and news studios, as well as numerous editing suites, all comfortably located on a 80,000m2 floor space, in a ship like structure (Noah’s Ark). The building is designed by award-winning Japanese architect Maki & Associates.
Such a broad range of properties illustrates how far-reaching this media company is. What started some 80 years ago as a radio studio has diversifi ed into journalism, broadcasting, television production and other businesses. Mediacorp has the widest range of media platforms in Singapore today with 50 products and brands in four languages, reaching out to virtually all adults in Singapore. Three custodians of the Ark – Debra Soon, Chief Customer Offi cer, Doreen Neo, Chief Content Offi cer and Anil Nihalani, Head, Connected Media share with K. Dass, how the media behemoth is moving ahead in today’s destructive environment.
Doreen explains, although the company is heavily invested in traditional media, Mediacorp has made digital transformation one of the company’s strategic priorities. Mediacorp is making programming available on screens of all sizes, offering catch-up TV service, Toggle originals and second-screen apps.
With twelve years of hands-on and managerial experience with the leading national broadcaster in Singapore, Doreen oversees content production across 4 languages (English, Mandarin, Tamil and Malay) which equates to 1,500 hrs of light entertainment, drama and variety a year. 55% of which is Chinese content, followed by 30% of English with the balance allocated to the rest of the ethnic community. Today, the producers across the various channels are all committed to digital content for all platforms with initiatives discussed at the storyboard level.
“We have to stop thinking of ourselves as TV producers solely but video content producers for a bigger spectrum. Thus, the whole thinking process has changed. My fi rst task is to encourage and be the champion for video fi rst and drive that strategy. Soon, there’ll be social media integrated to this force; further amplifying our strategy. This is easier said than done as new workfl ows are established, younger people are invited to share ideas and more in-depth research and engagement with audience are done, ultimately benefiting the viewers.
“For example, the recent programme, 118 season one, we had a scene that did extremely well because it touched on the standard of living today. There is an element of anxiety and empathy as well. So, part of the scene was cut and repurposed on social media and that clip went viral. It soon reached more than half a million people and there was intense discussion. It simply meant that we were relevant and the characters that interacted on social media made the difference. This is important so that the audiences can see the effort. It is not only about innovation but disruption in the digital age to remain relevant” added Doreen.
Such forward thinking has propelled the team to start rationalising digital initiatives as part of the entire creative process for a holistic approach. Both Chinese and English drama producers embrace disruption and they have the task to create heroes and help to bolster the videos.
Doreen explains that the quality, storytelling and eminence of their cast are widely praised in the region. “Our programmes are very respectable and there is relevance towards the approach of the story. China produces 20,000 hours of Chinese drama; Korea produces 15,000 hours whilst we only produce about 300 hours.
Perhaps, this is the reason why we stand out in small markets.“We try to be relevant to local audience. Korean drama Signal is more complex but it received better rating. If we were to model after a scene from Descendants of the Sun where a male lead fl ipped the hand phone of the female lead, it may end up being criticised because the environment and setting here is totally different. Thus, we have to make our storytelling just as, if not more engaging and we need to serve a younger and newer generation through the digital initiative,” she added.
With 70% of the audience share in the country, Mediacorp strives to provide the best for its viewers. The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA)’s programming advisory committee have praised Mediacorp for improving its content offering on various platforms. Mediacorp was lauded for featuring fresh concepts and better-crafted storylines, scripts and characters. These new concepts were more authentic and refl ective of life in Singapore. Mediacorp was also praised for addressing previous concerns over the need for fairer racial representation in Mandarin dramas. An increased breadth of issues was also found to be explored in public service broadcast dramas across languages. These dramas encompassed themes and subject matters which were timely, educational and of social or cultural significance.
The broadcaster’s online viewership also grew by 15% with Toggle views for the show crossed the 10-minute mark. Last year, The Star Awards generated more than 38,000 clicks on Toggle and contributed to an increase in TV viewership year-onyear. Toggle’s chief Anil says, “The platform resonates well with the varied audience because of its wide range of offerings ranging from catch-up videos, ‘live’ events such as National Day Parade, General Elections rally, SEA Games, to the Olympics and Toggle’s original programmes, known as Toggle Originals. Toggle Originals have been growing quite signifi cantly, focusing on drama and comedy in both English and Chinese. They target at younger audiences and adds to the breadth of appeal to audiences from all age groups.
“In addition to Toggle Originals we have several thousand hours of catch-up content from our free-toair television channels. Hence, you can catch both linear channels and Video on demand (VOD) content on Toggle. Toggle is available on the web, mobile phones, tablets, smart TVs, chromecast and Apple TV. So between the vast majority of devices, there will be a Toggle offering, ” Anil says.