The top trends and predictions from the 2016 Asia TV Forum & Market

We’ve come a long way since sitting in front of our box TV sets while eating cereal in our PJs. Nowadays, we watch content on the bus ride to work and even when we do our makeup. It has definitely gone mobile, but there’s more to this modern-day medium than meets the eye.

With an invitation from the Singapore Tourism board, I was able to check out the scenes from the Singapore Media Festival 2016, particularly the Asia TV Forum & Market. The event brought together the different minds behind the thriving entertainment industry in Asia, but also foreign companies that aim to engage in the market.

I admit I was pretty surprised by the lineup of speakers and the range of topics they talked about. But in the span of four days, it was all very clear why I was part of the discussion. Television is as much for business as it is for pleasure. And we, the audience, are at the heart of it all.

Technologies and media trends might change, but the power of the consumer remains the same. While everyone keeps saying that good content is king, the audience will always have the power to decide what content goes up and what gets sacked.

There’s an even bigger world outside of what we see on our screens — valuable industries made up of talented actors, technically skilled editors, producers, distributors and everyone involved in between. It took a lot for entertainment to get to this point in its development, but there’s definitely a lot more that content consumers and creators can look forward to.

In an attempt to paint a picture of how we behaved as media consumers this year, here are a few of the television trends in 2016 mentioned in ATF 2016 and what can we expect next year.

“Freemium” Over-The-Top

If you’re someone who likes to watch content anytime and anywhere, Over-The-Top (OTT) is the way to go. Basically, films and TV content are distributed online through different applications. OTT is divided into more categories but the most popular is subscription videos on demand (SVODs), which is provided by the likes of Netflix and Hooq.

It’s actually not hard to imagine what our lives were like before Netflix found its way into our shores earlier this year. A huge chunk of the Filipino audience still won’t pay for entertainment if they can have it for free. (Read: Available as torrent or screened and dubbed in Tagalog at free TV channels.) In a study by Ashish Pherwani published in the Day 2 issue of Asia TV Forum’s official show daily, only less than five percent of the population in developing countries pay for OTT.

Power players: Debbie Evans, president, Southeast Asia & Australia, Reed Exhibitions; Gabriel Lim, chief executive, IMDA; Chee Hong Tat, Minister of State, Ministry of Communications & Information; Paul Beh, president Asia Pacific, Reed Exhibitions; Robert Gilby, chairman, Singapore Media Festival.

But for the minority of us willing to pay (and willing to put up with our Third World Internet), it all boils down to finding the right service that provides all the content you want and then some. This is where the “freemium” strategy comes in. Exclusive content is trialed on a free basis for 1-3 months. That’s actually all it really takes for us potential customers to get a taste of the on-demand entertainment that we’re missing and eventually get us into subscribing.

What’s next?

Green light: The blockbuster movie On The Job directed by Erik Matti gets a reboot as a six-part mini-series co-produced and exclusively distributed by Hooq.

In the next few years, we’re looking forward to more localized OTT content. SVODs thrive on exclusive content and it can’t get any more original than by actually producing your own content. It is important to see OTTs not just as a gateway to bring in international content, but as a platform for local content to travel as well. A good example is the six-part miniseries On The Job, which is an extension of the namesake 2013 award-winning movie directed by Erik Matti. It is the first original Filipino content co-produced and exclusively distributed by video-on-demand streaming service Hooq.


What makes virtual reality (VR) a game changer is its unique ability to engage viewers into participating in telling the story. In an interesting discussion at the festival between two of the early drivers of virtual reality Clifton Dawson (CEO, Greenlight VR) and Eric Shamlin (managing director, Secret Location), VR was even touted as “an empathy machine,” fully immersing viewers in the use of multiple media and transporting them into different worlds.

Sense and sensibilities: This VR app at the ATF 2016 Market immerses audience into the story of a man losing his sight.
Clifton Dawson, CEO of Greenlight VR
Eric W. Shamlin, VP managing director, Secret Location.

If ever you’ve tried a VR head-mounted display (HMD), you can agree that there’s still so much that can be done with it. At the exhibition booth of the French Touche by Institut Français and the French Embassy in Singapore, I got to try the the VR application that immersed me in the story of an old man who is slowly losing his eyesight. The visuals were stunning and the audio was very realistic. But the emotional journey that the unique storytelling allowed me to go through is really what gives this emerging entertainment so much value. If anything, this highlights the importance of creating innovative content that’s not just driven by the tech, but by the overall vision as well.

What’s next?

There’s no doubt that virtual reality technology is groundbreaking. But it’s still too early to tell what to make of it. But in the next five years, we’re excited for more creative applications in the gaming industry. This year alone we’ve seen it in Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR HMDs.


The main challenge with creating online content these days is not so much the actual production or the distribution.

Rather, it’s making your content visible. It’s a huge feat on its own, considering that the Internet is a black hole of media content. But what rises above the noise and builds valuable fan-based communities is the content that banks on its unique personality and distinct voice. YouTube stars are a new generation of self-made creative hustlers. Besides focusing on a niche market, what makes them effective online communicators is the fact they build strong relationships with their audience by being relatable and accessible.

Screen queen: Maine Mendoza went from social media to the big screen.

What’s next?

We’ll be seeing more social media stars penetrate traditional media outlets like mainstream movies and television. Maine Mendoza, of the loveteam AlDub, successfully went from small screen to just about everything else (big screen, magazine covers, billboards) and the same opportunities will likely be extended to other local vloggers and online influencers. As they move from one medium to another, they bring with them their millions of fans and a potential market for advertisers and producers.

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Photos from Asia TV Forum & Market 2016

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