The Asia Media Journal
April 17, 2014

May 12, 2009

An Elusive Common Goal

The capital-intensive telecoms industry is often hailed as an example of how everyone benefits when competing firms band together on areas of mutual concern. Agreed standards and platforms helped nurture customer-centric technologies and innovation, while curbing wasteful spend. Now a former telco executive wants to extend that idea to Asian media.

Inspired by his experience in the mobile industry, former SingTel EVP Lucas Chow, now CEO of Singaporean broadcaster MediaCorp, has persuaded some of Southeast Asia’s biggest free-to-air networks to see where it makes sense to work together in three areas critical to the media business: content; technology; and sales and marketing.

“As a community of regional media companies, we believe there is scope for an alliance that is established and driven purely by commercial considerations and goals,” Chow announced at the inauguration of his project, dubbed the Smart Alliance. “Our hope is that we will be the alliance of choice of all media companies within the next three years or so.”

Market clout
Lofty goals indeed. With the likes of Indonesia’s MNC, Malaysia’s Media Prima and the Philippines’ ABS-CBN on board, Chow’s new alliance already has the heft to make a big difference to the Asian media business, possibly forming a joint buying block for new shows or technologies. However, the alliance is liable to make more headway in some areas than others.

Keeping everyone happy in joint sales and marketing deals promises to be especially tricky, while variable regulation in different markets will hamper the pursuit of common technological standards. While such areas may still be within reach if companies are determined to reach them, content acquisition and development offer more immediate opportunities, while benchmarking and knowledge sharing around best practice will help bind the group together as well as improve its members’ prospects.

“It’s a good beginning,” says MNC group CEO, Hary Tanoe. “The challenge is whether we have the ability to implement the concept.”

Pragmatism and ambition
Wary that this initiative’s future hinges on proving that it’s more than a talking shop, its members are keen to ensure their first project – potentially a multi-country reality show – is a success. There are few hard and fast rules governing how the alliance will develop too, providing a flexible framework for greater co-operation between individual members rather than the group as a whole.

This mix of pragmatism and ambition makes the Smart Alliance one to watch. Members can opt out of initiatives if they wish, as well as bring in non-members, though Chow wants to defer expansion of the actual alliance until it has proved its worth.

“That’s the key,” he says. “If you cannot prove the concept actually works, there’s no point in talking about how far it will go.”

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