Arthur Lang, CEO, International, Singtel. (Photo credit: Singtel)
By Ryan Huang
‘Content is king’ is an oft-cited phrase in engaging audiences, especially amid shrinking attention spans and brand loyalty.
Together with Optus and its regional associates (AIS, Airtel, Globe, Telkomsel), the Singtel Group reaches over 650 million mobile customers in 22 countries. Singtel believes content is key to winning their hearts. This is becoming increasingly relevant for the communications technology group, which continues to transform its business by investing in digital content and services.
IMpact spoke with Arthur Lang, CEO, International, Singtel, who shares his observations around the evolving demands of audiences and insights into the Group’s content strategy.
1. How have audience behaviour and expectations affected the way content is being consumed?
When we think of content, it is no longer a one-way street – consumers want to be involved and engaged. This has seen the rising popularity of live-streaming platforms such as Periscope and Facebook LIVE; and messaging apps like SnapChat and Instagram where users can share short videos.
More people are now watching multi-player video games online, such as Dota. Besides watching the games live, the audience also contribute to the prize pool. Business Insider projects that the number of people who tune into eSports will grow from about 300 million people to 500 million worldwide by 2020.
Additionally, consumer lifestyles have changed with the adoption of mobile devices. In fact, these devices have become so integral to our lives that many of us spend a good part of our waking hours on them whether we are at home, at work or on-the-go. This is in turn driving demand for a host of digital lifestyle and entertainment services.
It is a trend that we are seeing not just in Singapore but also in the emerging markets where our associates operate. In particular, music and video streaming are popular with consumers because of the convenience and ease of accessing digital content wherever they are and whenever they want. According to research by Deloitte, around seven in 10 people between 14 and 31 years old prefer streaming services.
Content has therefore become a major part of the Group’s strategy to connect with our customers as a result of the change in entertainment consumption habits. Last year, we launched Singtel Cast, our OTT video portal app offering Hollywood and Asian content, in Singapore. And, in Australia, we have Optus Sport, a 24/7 sports channel with on-demand and live multi-screen capability to broadcast the Premier League. Our associates have introduced streaming services in their respective markets to cater to this demand. For example, consumers in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines can subscribe to the AIS Playbox, VideoMAX and GoWATCH services respectively.
Besides this, we have formed partnerships with content providers to expand the suite of OTT content. For example, AIS in Thailand and Globe in the Philippines are collaborating with Netflix, HOOQ, FOX and NBA to provide a variety of content including original TV series, films and sports. HOOQ is in fact a joint venture between the Singtel Group, Warner Bros Entertainment and Sony Pictures to offer Hollywood and local content in five markets – India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. Premium content is one of the focus areas of the Group’s digital business to tap into the growing demand for OTT video streaming.
2. What is the difference in consumer trends between emerging markets and more developed ones?
In the emerging markets, where there is more limited infrastructure, the mobile phone is the primary way for consumers to access the mobile internet and digital services. In fact for many of them, their first movie experience would have been on their mobile devices. Hence, we are seeing more adoption taking off in the developing markets.
In more mature markets, we expect to see more consumption over mobile due to a multi-device culture, where viewers can watch over a range of devices, or continue from one platform to another.
All this will contribute to a rise in mobile video traffic globally, which is expected to grow around 50% annually through 2022. In 2022, video will account for about 75% of mobile data traffic globally by 2022, according to Ericsson Mobility Report.
3. What new technologies do you think could influence the way content will be produced?
One area that is developing is virtual reality and augmented reality. While this is still at the nascent stage, it potentially opens up possibilities for the way content is portrayed. We are already seeing 360-degree videos being used by global news agencies, such as CNN, The Guardian and New York Times, in their news reports.
4. How has Singtel adapted to this changing audience and business landscape with regard to creating and delivering content?
We have observed a growing appetite for local content that caters to the culture of the market; content that is original and relatable, and not contrived.
This is why some members of the Group are investing in original content. For example, in the Philippines, Globe has created Globe Studios and Globe Live to produce original shows and live entertainment events.
As consumers are also looking for more flexibility and affordability, we are also creating offerings that are more modular and targeted. Services like Singtel’s CAST, Globe’s GoWATCH, Telkomsel’s VideoMAX and AIS Playbox offer a variety of great value content packs of different genres, data and duration.
5. One way Singtel is engaging the audiences is through the return of its 5-Min Video Challenge. What does Singtel aim to achieve with this competition?
Our regional video competition complements the Group’s content strategy. It provides another platform to engage and entertain our more than 650 million customers across Africa, Australia, India, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore. Each member of the Group – Singtel, Airtel, AIS, Globe, Telkomsel – caters to their customers’ content consumption preferences by developing services for their respective markets.
Collectively, we consistently review our content options for our customers as their consumption habits change. This video competition will be held at the local and regional level. Our associates will select two of the best videos from their local markets to contend for the title of ‘Grand Winner’ at the regional final in November.
We invite aspiring filmmakers or anyone who has a story to share to submit a 5-minute video that best captures the theme ‘Connecting Lives’. Short-form entertainment – in particular short videos – are very popular with millennials given the ease of watching them on-the-go.
The broad theme gives participants a lot of space for creative interpretation, to tell their story in a variety of formats. At last year’s inaugural event, we received a wide-ranging menu of videos. A variety of genres was used, for example humour, horror, drama, adventure. Some used dance and animation. Others provided a philosophical perspective. And, we look forward to more creative visual story-telling formats at this year’s competition.
Besides showcasing the creativity of these filmmakers, the competition also enables our customers to discover original made-for-mobile content from their countries and across the region.
The competition also enables us to give the region’s most talented filmmakers a platform to be discovered and launch their careers in film making. After last year’s competition, the winning team from Indonesia set up a film studio with their prize money and is collaborating with Telkomsel in Indonesia in a number of projects. The first runner-up from the Philippines has teamed up with Singapore’s award-winning filmmaker Eric Khoo on his film project.
This year’s competition will, again, have well-known filmmakers from the region on the judging panel. Eric Khoo is returning to the panel, joined by Joko Anwar from Indonesia.