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Uncommon allies TV content providers are moving with the times to engage an increasingly fragmented audience, through adopting multiplatform technologies. Today’s content business has made TV and other various media dependent rather than independent. Kelvin Ong discovers that in this business opposites can attract.

It might be dated to term television, a traditional medium. Today, there is nothing traditional about it at all. Content providers and even telecom operators are bringing television content to more households and viewers, via various innovative platforms such as mobile applications and the internet. Some industry observers foresee that this trend of allegiance will be increasingly pronounced in the near future. Central to this idea of synergy, is the nascent but fast growing relationship between television content and gaming, two things not normally used in the same sentence previously. Of course, gaming, per sé, has been around a long time but now content makers are seeing gaming – be it web-based or as mobile apps – as a new way to access and connect with their target audience. Statistics from a Chetan Sharma study show that mobile app usage is indeed ballooning. According to the analysis, in 2009, the total number of app downloads globally was approximately 7 billion, with Asia

leading at 37 per cent. The study predicts that by 2012, the number is expected to grow 92 per cent to almost 50 billion downloads globally per year.

to television. But other evidence shows that some take this initial industry excitement very seriously.

The Nielsen App Playbook survey added to these figures. It found that games make up the most popular genre of mobile apps, in terms of number of downloads and ratio of people who downloaded them. 60 per cent of the subjects surveyed who said they had downloaded an app in the last 30 days also played a gaming app during the same period. Looking at such numbers, gaming

National History New Zealand’s (NHNZ) Flutter and Celestial Pictures’ My Kingdom games are two examples of this burgeoning relationship.

Flutter

Back in 2009, NHNZ set up an entire gaming unit, Runaway, to reap the potential rewards that gaming could bring in by exposing television

We set up Runaway to extend our production expertise into interactive experiences, which build both viewership and revenue for our channel partners. – John Crawford, NHNZ is a lucrative avenue for television, making the strengthening of their relationship inevitable. Where the two used to be competitors, they now see a reason to complement one another. Graham Perkins, CoCEO, Business, Rune Entertainment, is one such observer who believes the trend is just gathering steam. “I think we’ll see more integration between live broadcast and mobile, not just based on the delivery of content but through the participation of audiences – pervasive interaction with tablet devices”, he said. At present however, there is little data available to support the direct effect of gaming in steering consumers

Puzzle Planets

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content to a bigger, yet-to-be-tapped audience. Setting up the division represented a strategy to stay ahead of the industry. John Crawford, General Manager of NHNZ, said, “The industry is always evolving and it’s up to us to ensure we stay ahead of the game. Quite literally, in this case, we set up Runaway to extend our production expertise into interactive experiences, which build both viewership and revenue for our channel partners.” Tim Nixon, Director of Runaway, said the potential of building viewership is definitely great. “Games can drive a new audience to a TV series and vice versa,” said Nixon. “A broadcaster might be looking to penetrate that market and with a game it gives that kind of engagement and direct access.” The move seems to have worked out so far. NHNZ’s Flutter made it to

number seven on Games.com’s list of the Top 10 new Facebook games of 2010. The game’s interface and gameplay reflects NHNZ’s television content – natural world factual programming. The success of Flutter has already prompted the New Zealand-based subsidiary of Fox International Channels to create a second game called Puzzle Planets, based on its documentary special, Clash of the Continents, which premiered on National Geographic Channel last year. Closer to home, Celestial Pictures, the Hong Kong-based TV and film company, recently launched the first ever gaming application developed to accompany a Chinese movie. For the Asian broadcaster, known for its classic kungfu movies, entering the gaming frontier was also a strategic decision. Ross Pollack, its CEO, told TV ASIA Plus, “From back in 2009, we went to the board and very clearly agreed to take a transmedia, 360-type of approach to the business.” But unlike NHNZ who made a meticulous and detail-oriented game title, Celestial’s My Kingdom mobile game app (based on the movie of the same name) was created primarily as a means to promote the film, the entertainment company’s first movie release in six years. The end product was a basic music-based game, which Pollack himself said was “made on a shoestring budget”.


technology mark. In fact, although only in its initial stage, Pollack said Celestial is “already working on another game, which is based on one of our Shaw Brothers Library movies.”

My Kingdom Game

“In this particular case, we wanted to do something different on the marketing side and use mobile and web-based technology to help to market the film. As a result, we came up with the idea of creating a game application to achieve that,” he said. Pollack added that it is too early to tell if the game will prove to be a success but shared with TV ASIA Plus plans to develop more such content if My Kingdom hits the

Interestingly, providers catering to niche audiences have launched mobile apps as well. For example, Cinemacraft, a Japanese provider of interactive mobile content solutions, launched Cinemacraft Jazzdoraku, a Japanese jazz video-on-demand (VOD) application, last month. The app aims to bring such music to local fans and eventually the larger international community on a different, mobile platform. But it’s not just content makers getting in on the act; PayTV operators are also launching such initiatives. In July, Singapore’s

Motion sickness

StarHub launched FooD.I.Y, currently available on the iPhone and iPad, which allows users to access a library of recipes and specially edited videos from world-renowned chefs featured on the operator’s food channels, such as TLC and Food Network Asia. There’s also StarHub TV on Mobile, a mobile app which allows tablet and smartphone users an on-the-go, personal viewing experience with news and entertainment content from some of its channels. “Content providers are increasingly looking at offering their content on avenues over and above the traditional TV platform because these will help them reach out to more people,” especially since more people are turning to computers and smartphones for more personal

But the use of such advanced production technologies still remains an exception, rather than a rule for the Asian TV industry.

By Kelvin Ong Technology is not merely bridging content to viewers but is also providing new and innovative ways of making content altogether. Yet the usage of such innovative technologies by mainstream producers is yet to really gain momentum. As Rune Entertainment’s Graham Perkins observed, “I’m not really seeing anything by Asian content providers that are really developing new types of content, based on new technologies.” But tucked away in Ubi industrial estate in Singapore, is one example of a company pushing the boundaries.

Earlier this year, Monstrou Studio, invested in Singapore’s first full motion-capture analysis system (MoCap). The system from Vicon Motion Systems, based in Sydney, is used to make 3D CGI content for television that until recently was reserved mostly for big budget series and feature films. Monstrou, which was established in 2008, decided to take this route, when it began developing Tritans II, a CGI action adventure animation series. And the investment seems to be paying off. Still in the midst of production, the 13-part series for kids has already received some early attention from Vietnam Cable Television (VCTV).

Kenneth Goh, Monstrou’s Creative Development Director, told TV ASIA Plus, “I think it is not being used enough. Education institutions are there. Technologies are there. But they are not necessarily being employed by the industry because of a combination of factors.” The factors he is referring to are those of cost and a lack of awareness. Goh believes they are the main cause for the low adoption rate of these new technologies. Yet the supposed high cost of MoCap can actually be offset by savings in labour costs. Goh added, “In the first series of Tritans, there were approximately 40 full time/ part time animators working on different aspects of the production. In Tritans II however, through the use of MoCap, we are able to go to production with less than half this number. This has helped us in the nett man hours utilized.” Even so, the common misconception that MoCap is beyond budget continues to hold. “There are actually a few Malaysian houses with this technology encountering the same kind of problem,” said Goh. He added that furthermore, what is preventing the take off of the system is that “a lot of the mentality here is

Tritans 2

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viewing experiences than ever before,” said Iris Wee, Vice President of Home Solutions and Content. The need for developing mobile apps becomes especially crucial in today’s landscape, where the audience is always seeking a more interactive and customizable experience. Wee told TV ASIA Plus it was largely with this in mind that the FooD.I.Y and StarHub TV on Mobile apps were developed. “We (StarHub) see ourselves not just as an aggregator of content but also playing the role of a curator where we customize the content we distribute and make it relevant to different target audiences, since we have the knowledge and insights to what our customers want,” said Wee. TVAplus

still that only movies use the technology”. Despite this, Monstrou remains undeterred. The production house believes the tide will change eventually. “We’re looking at the long term, looking at hopefully coproducing with production houses. Also, we’re looking at stories that are recognized as Asian but can be shared and sold internationally.” But there are some who still believe technology is not the be all and end all for the future of television content. Said Perkins, who has worked and consulted with companies such as Apple and MTV Networks Asia, “Technology aside, it’s important to note that it is the story that engages audiences at the end of day. With the onslaught of new tools for companies to play with, it creates opportunities to create new forms of transmedia storytelling. Perkins added that technology should not be the driver of engagement, but instead be used as a tool to complement and enhance the storytelling process. “There needs to be a deeper connection with audiences in order to get them to participate and lean forward – it all comes back to story.” Monstrou is aiming to marry story along with all the bells and whistles when Tritans II completes production by mid 2012. TVAplus


TV Asia Plus October 2011 - Uncommon allies