Singapore set to be regional media hub

The country is primed to take centerstage to supply the region's media content with its local talent and international partnerships, says media regulator.

SINGAPORE--In their first joint press briefing together, the Media Development Authority (MDA), Economic Development Board (EDB) and Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) Wednesday highlighted some of the local media sector's recent developments.

Christopher Chia, MDA's CEO, identified Singapore's broadcasting industry as a "big area of strength and growth", outlining the increasing number of co-production deals brokered with international production companies.

Examples of such companies are British distributor FremantleMedia Enterprise and U.S.-based Mark Burnett Productions. The latter partnered Singaporean production house Imagine OmniMedia to produce reality program, The Contender Asia.

According to the MDA, 16 international cable and satellite networks presently use Singapore as a base to uplink their channels to the region. Chia said this showed Singapore's growing position as a "regional media hub".

Chia also talked about the presence of large games and animation developers such as Lucasfilm, Koei and Ubisoft who have set up studios in the country.

Lucasfilm's 3D animation studio here is its first outside of the United States, and European Ubisoft expects its games studio here to be Southeast Asia's largest.

Thomas Lim, director for education, learning, digital media and entertainment, IDA said the games industry is a young but quickly growing sector that is broadening the media sector in the country. "We're finding new ways to carry media," said Lim.

Examples are Singapore-based AsiaSoft's clinching of the rights to publish Mythos, an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game) in the region. Koei's Singaporean studio produced its first MMORPG entitled Romance of the Three Kingdoms Online, which launched in Japan in February this year.

Chia said the growth of media enterprises has been helped in part by the healthy media financing scene. Over S$500 million (US$369.5 million) in private capital is available for media projects, he said.

The government announced in July 2006 a fund of S$500 million (US$325.7 million) to be allocated over the next five years to fund Singapore's research and development (R&D) activities in interactive and digital media (IDM).

Manohar Khiatani, assistant managing director, industry development division, EDB, said Singapore's establishment as a trustworthy business environment is in part due to its respect for intellectual property.

Another attractive proposition Singapore holds for foreign companies is also its position bridging the divide between "East and West", by having insight to the region's culture but also western knowledge, added Khiatani.

Lim said Singapore's planned NBN (next-generation broadband network) will help catalyze the digital media scene by delivering speeds of up to 1 Gbps and beyond. Singapore currently has a total submarine cable capacity of 28 Tbps and direct international Internet connectivity of 25 Gbps.

According to the MDA, the Department of Statistics' latest report estimates the overall media sector to have brought in some S$18.2 billion (US$13.4 billion) in revenue and employing 53,000 people as of 2005.