Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Entertainment Industry in Singapore: A Live Streaming Perspective

Live streaming of concerts and shows is a feature that is becoming increasingly popular in the entertainment industry. This is especially so in Singapore for the hosting of MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, Exhibitions) events as they are an integral part of the Singapore Tourism Board’s (STB) events strategy. According to Bill Ng of NCI, Singapore is ranked the top convention city in Asia for the 6th consecutive year running, and live streaming Singapore has huge potential to engage international audiences and increase prominence of the events. Relatively inexpensive to set up, live streams can be instantly distributed globally through the internet and potentially bring about greater publicity and post-event sales for the same cost and effort.

Singapore has a small domestic market owing to its small population size and land area. This has led to the development of a vibrant and diverse entertainment industry with a focus on exporting its cultural products and services. The entertainment industry in Singapore comprises a wide array of subsectors, which includes arts, media, entertainment services, events, and creative services. The Interactive Digital Media (IDM) industry, which creates digital entertainment products and services, is a key growth area. The purpose of this paper is to provide an overview of the entertainment industry in Singapore and how live streaming, as a new form of technology, fits into the industry. This paper will also look at the challenges and opportunities of this new technology and provide recommendations as to how industry players could better harness the technology to bring about benefits for the industry as a whole.

Overview of the Entertainment Industry in Singapore

The entire world is witnessing drastic changes which are taking place in the entertainment sector. It is important that Singapore takes cognizance of these new developments and adapts its strategies and plans in order to make full use of the opportunities that presently exist and those that will be unfolding in the near future. These are interesting times for the entertainment industry in Singapore. It has always been important to the country and its population, but in the past, it has been seen more as an addendum to other more significant industries. But now, the entertainment industry is a significant feature in many countries and can, in some cases, be an economic powerhouse in its own right. This is due mainly to technological advancements and the break-neck speed at which information can now travel around the globe. In some ways, this phenomenon has made the world that much smaller. For the entertainment industry, it has meant that the competition to capture the minds (and wallets) of a potential audience has become more intense. The pie has not gotten bigger, but there are many more people who want a slice of it. Singapore is in a good position to take advantage of these changes, but there is a need to first understand the industry as it now stands.

Importance of Live Streaming in the Entertainment Industry

Live-streaming is set to continue to succeed and, as a result, will likely replace a big portion of traditional entertainment events.

Live gaming, the most viewed form of live-stream content with 1.2 million views, hosted events with online audiences, which includes “cloud concerts.” This is a live performance concert online to an audience watching from home. This form of live-stream concerts would lower the cost of music events and reduce pollution.

Globally, the live streaming industry in the entertainment sector generated 63.6 billion views in 2020, which was a 78.6% growth from the previous year. This huge success in live-streaming is likely due to the increase in internet speeds and the reliability of said internet, which opens more doors for the creator to be able to produce higher quality content.

Singapore live-streamers, such as musicians, take this as an opportunity to still engage with a crowd and work on their art in a time where music gigs are not possible. It’s a great way for them to keep in touch with their audience and show that they are still active.

Live-streaming has gained prominence over the years. It offers an affordable means for artists to display their craft and share it with an audience. Live-streaming is a form of video content where the creator is live at the time of the video. The audience can interact with the creator, and some platforms even allow the audience to make a donation and have a message appear on the screen, which creates an incentive for the creator.

Live Streaming Platforms in Singapore

At the same time, there were expectations for an increased competitive advantage vis-à-vis foreign live streaming platforms by which the local companies could capitalize on their knowledge of the Asian market. However, it can be seen that the task of acquiring overseas audiences is daunting given the intense competition from other media companies and the variety of content available. This is especially true in the case of Mycaster, which was originally targeting an international audience but now intends to shift focus toward the niche markets within the Asian diaspora. Both companies intend to take advantage of the technological advances and decreasing cost of international content delivery through Content Delivery Networks (CDN). This, however, poses implications that are twofold. While it is now easier to deliver their own content, the significance of hosting foreign content has increased and with it the risk of being seen as a site for foreign content which may not necessarily equate to better revenue streams. This is likely to be further exacerbated by the MDA’s recent move to make overseas news websites individually apply for licensing.

Mycaster and LiveStation are two local live streaming platforms in Singapore that were established in 2007. Factoring the industry shift toward digital media and the realization of the Media Development Authority’s (MDA) new media funding schemes, the decision to enter the industry was in itself a calculated risk, though the platforms are now well positioned to benefit from the increasing broadband penetration in Singapore. Both companies have had positive experiences concerning the new regulations in Singapore. In particular, the ability to offer video on demand services meant that the platforms could stage content in a more conducive manner without the complications from a live feed. LiveStation CEO, Viryan Chhabra, pointed out that the company was able to provide alternative coverage of the 2010 South Africa World Cup by encoding and streaming videos from external sources. The delay in transmission effectively allowed moderation in accordance with the MDA’s TV coverage regulations.

After the enforcement of standardized live streaming regulations in Singapore in 2007, the entertainment industry faced a seismic shift toward digitalization. Prior to that, terrestrial broadcasters had repeatedly warned of adverse implications from the emerging live streaming Singapore platforms. Their concerns sought to protect the status quo, arguing that new media could potentially subvert national values and the sense of nationhood by undermining the racial and religious harmony that had been achieved. The question about censorship in the new media age thus cut across the regulatory agenda for Singapore. This paper explores the perspectives of both the new and traditional media industries with regards to live streaming; their experiences with the regulatory framework, the challenges they now face, and the opportunities that have arisen. The study also aims to provide a better understanding of live streaming platform features and services in an increasingly competitive media landscape. It will therefore be evident from the following discussions that the once clear demarcation between local and foreign media has become increasingly blurred.

Major Live Streaming Platforms in Singapore

There are a variety of live streaming platforms available for musicians to reach their audience. One major platform is Pandora. Pandora is an automated music recommendation internet radio service. Musicians can upload their music onto Pandora, and it can help to generate a playlist of music that appeals to a similar music style. This can help expose different music genres to new listeners. Another platform is YouTube, which needs no further explanation, is the leading provider of online video content. With an untold amount of video possibilities, YouTube is a viable platform for any musician to display their music. However, the downside of YouTube is the increased difficulty in being discovered due to the massive amount of video content available. A third platform and relatively new platform, Push “Music Your Way,” is an internet radio station that allows musicians to create live shows or podcasts. This platform is especially useful for musicians that have specialty music shows.

With the internet, a new piece of technology called live streaming has changed the landscape of entertainment in Singapore. Live streaming of music and live concerts has helped rejuvenate the local music scene. With the previous glory days of music long gone, do-it-yourself musicians are struggling to find venues to play at to get their music heard. This has caused an upsurge in live house gigs in Singapore and is a double-edged sword. With more live acts, live house owners are concerned with attendance due to the past history of lower turnouts for local acts. This is where live streaming of music can provide a possible solution for musicians. Live streaming of music can reach a wider audience by providing music to fans in the comfort of their own homes and can cut down on the cost of producing CDs and demo tapes.

The entertainment industry in Singapore has entered a new era due to the rapid development of the internet. This new era of entertainment is on the verge of replacing traditional methods of entertainment such as television and radio by making the internet its platform for housing all forms of media. The internet has provided an array of opportunities for the live streaming of entertainment in Singapore. This ranges from television shows, movies, radio, music videos to live concerts. This has also opened up benefit-laden opportunities for do-it-yourself musicians to get their acts online, create a fan base, and take their act to the next level.

Features and Services Offered by Live Streaming Platforms

As live streaming becomes more prevalent in Singapore, it is important to understand what the platforms have to offer. Notable features and services are identified under the freemium business model. According to a study, a freemium business model is one where a basic service is provided free of charge, but money is charged for proprietary features or virtual goods. This business model has the potential to develop a large group of loyal customers who may be willing to pay for extra features. It was found that 82% of live streaming users use it as it is free to use, which indicates it is possible to develop a large customer base through this model. Viewers are found to be willing to a certain extent too, with a mean price of $8.10 for a virtual gift compared to a gift ratio between 2:1 to 5:1. Price would be dependent on the quality and functionality of the virtual goods. The sentiment was echoed by the study, stating that there is ample evidence to suggest that there are a sufficient number of customers willing to pay for virtual items. Platform providers would do well to take advantage of this in the developing virtual gift market. A 10% sample of providers and 70% of viewers were found to be willing to pay for extra features, with the mean price being about $6.63 for providers and $7.19 for viewers. These suggest possibilities for both groups in the freemium business model.

Challenges and Opportunities for Live Streaming Platforms

Another challenge is in relation to the attitudes of the media companies towards the live streaming platforms. While some media companies welcome the use of live streaming to gain publicity and marketing for their events, others fear that the live streaming of an event will lead to the cannibalization of its digital content. An example from one interviewee comes from the Singapore Press Holdings, which uses events such as S-League football matches for content on its online portal. The fear is that should the football matches be live-streamed on an external live streaming website, the public will prefer to watch it for free and since the event is live, can in many cases be live chat with friends increase stickiness and the readership of the online portal could drop due to decreased traffic. This fear, however, often leads to confusion between the definitions of sponsored and unsponsored events and in actual fact, many events contain opportunities for the media companies to work with the live streaming platforms to provide co-branding and cross-promotion and even production of original content for the media company. The distinction between the manner of implementation and the clear benefits from the latter are still often misunderstood and as a result, many media companies and marketing agencies are still not aware of the potential synergies live streaming can bring to them.

It is the opinion of many interviewees that the live streaming platforms have been blocked by some ministries/departments such as MDA, BCA, Singapore Police Force, IDA, and AVA for the reason it entertains without getting the legal requirements from these authorities – a response to new media being a relatively grey area. When compared with traditional media such as television and newspapers, new media technologies are fast-changing and due to their interactivity, which can be two-way, public and immediate, make it more difficult to regulate. This then begs the question whether the aforementioned authorities consciously chose to block the live streaming websites, given that these websites are more difficult to monitor or whether they have not yet considered the relative implications of new media on traditional media and what these implications will actually mean for future policies and legislation.

Impact of Live Streaming on the Entertainment Industry

Traditionally, consumers would turn to television and radio as their preferred source of entertainment. This trend has since been reversed, with consumers relying less on broadcasted media and more on on-demand content available on the internet. Live streaming has further encouraged this behavior, enabling consumers to view live television and radio broadcasts over the internet. An example would be events such as professional gaming tournaments where the broadcast is only available via live internet stream. This would mean that the consumer has a choice between watching it live or viewing a VoD at a later time. The shift in behavior can be attributed to the convenience and control that on-demand media provides. With everything available on the internet, consumers are no longer restricted to a schedule and can access their content from a variety of platforms, most notably via mobile devices.

Live streaming has undeniably revolutionized the way consumers access, create, and distribute entertainment content. This has consequently changed traditional forms of media and entertainment. According to a survey commissioned by the Media Development Authority (MDA), Singaporeans are increasingly turning to the internet as their source of entertainment. Among the 2000 respondents surveyed, about 75% indicated that they use the internet for entertainment, compared to television at 70%. The younger age 15-24 demographic shows a stronger preference for the internet, with 80% indicating that it is their primary source of entertainment. These provide a good insight into the changing consumer behavior and viewing habits observed in Singapore.

Changing Consumer Behavior and Viewing Habits

The emergence of new digital media has also influenced a change in viewing habits. Instead of consuming media on a fixed schedule, audiences are now able to customize when and how they access their preferred media. This shift from “mass media” to “class media” can be detrimental to television ratings and advertisement revenues as it undermines the traditional broadcasting model.

Media consumers in Singapore, especially the younger population, are gradually shifting from traditional forms of media such as television and radio to new digital forms. With the internet and advancements in mobile technology, consumers are now able to receive personalized media suited for their individual preferences at any time and place. This is especially prevalent with online television and film streaming services, of which 66% of young adults partake in at least once a month. Furthermore, with online piracy being an ongoing issue in Singapore, legitimate access to media has become less of a hassle with the software application “Popcorn Time,” which allows users to stream television shows and movies through an aggregated platform.

Growth of Online Content Creation and Distribution

Increased availability of broadband internet in Singapore has also made it easier to distribute online content. According to the Info-communications Development Authority of Singapore, the household broadband penetration rate (including wireless broadband) has increased from 68% in 2005 to 84% in 2009. This has led to a shift in consumer preference from traditional TV to online streaming services, which offer a wide range of international and local content. The growth of online content distribution is projected to continue, as seen with the increasing number of legal video streaming services available in Singapore, such as Netflix and HOOQ.

At the professional level, online content creation can be seen in the form of TV shows or movie downloads by local production companies or content created by new media companies. This has led to the blurring of lines between traditional and new media, as evident by the exclusive content created by new media company FreakOut for distribution over the internet and mobile devices, which was also broadcasted on national TV. These changes to the media landscape will facilitate the integration of live streaming into the media creation process, in addition to event-based live streaming.

Background: The growth of online content creation and distribution can be attributed to the proliferation of user-generated content, facilitated by Web 2.0. Online content creation can take many forms, ranging from multimedia content on blogs and YouTube, to podcasts and music sharing. The relatively low cost to create and share online content, coupled with the availability of a wide range of free software tools such as video editing or music mixing software, have made it increasingly easier for the average user to create their own content.

Integration of Live Streaming in Traditional Entertainment Channels

Tapping on traditional television, live broadcast can be migrated to live stream, but this depends on varying worldwide cricket or golf tournaments, which are often classified as premium content and strictly on cable television. While the national broadcasters are able to pull off a live stream from an IPTV server, they can still opt for a sublicense of the live streaming rights to internet companies at a reduced cost compared to the television broadcast. This is an opportunity that should not be missed as premium content is now moving towards live stream to reduce the damage incurred from internet piracy, where such actions are often due to the inconvenience of content availability and cost.

What you are left with is the moving of both variety and music shows into a new studio where the content gets translated into a live stream. It benefits artists as the production gets translated into higher exposure and cost savings for the same amount of content production. This could also mean potential cooperation with live stream platforms to cross-promote the artist’s content with the platform hive of the official release of the song/music video. These platforms offer a combination of free and subscription-locked content. YouTube will let the video uploaders have the choice of using the live stream platform on a pay-per-view basis. But ideally, alternatives like Twitch or Afreeca TV, platforms where viewers are more accustomed to seeing live content, would be the prime choices. It caters to the possibility of a dual-screen release, e.g. a K-pop music video reaching out to international fans and the live performance of the song for the domestic audience.

Monetization and Revenue Generation in Live Streaming

Nick Allen, the then vice president of partnerships at Twitch, has claimed that the site’s top streamers can earn more than $50,000 per hour through a combination of subscriptions, donations, and ad revenue. While we have no way to verify this claim, we can assume that the seeming extravagance of this potential income is in reference to a very small number of streamers.

Based on the self-reported earnings from a survey of 93 partnered broadcasters, it seems that advertising is the most profitable method of generating streaming revenue. A relatively small number of viewers can result in a moderate income. Anecdotally, a broadcaster was reported to have earned $2000 from 3.5k viewers in a month, suggesting an average revenue of $0.10 per viewer. There is almost no publicly available information on the revenue generated from direct ad sales so it is hard to assess if the ads auction system is in fact the best method of selling ad space, and indeed whether it provides a reliable income for small- to medium-sized streamers.

The ability to generate revenue is a key factor in the perpetuation of any media platform, and is especially important in the context of commercial organizations. This is true of live streaming which, despite often being a hobbyist pursuit, incurs costs for equipment and necessitates time which could be spent working. It is therefore useful to know what methods exist for turning a streaming hobby into something that can be financially self-sustaining.

Future Trends and Innovations in Live Streaming

An increase in scale-aiming technologies is also expected in the form of parallel and distributed computing for live video transcoding. By making transcoding more effective and less costly, it will be possible to make video available in different qualities and formats for different devices. These are the areas of technology that live streaming experts expect to see the most progression in the coming years.

As things stand, bigger content delivery networks are required for greater scale and availability, and this means more expense. In an ideal future scenario, there will be disruptive innovations that can do this at a fraction of the cost of current methods. An example of a suitable disruptive innovation, although not specifically targeted at content delivery networks, is cloud computing. If it is possible to stream through cloud computing technologies, this will decrease the cost of owning hardware and decrease the cost of streaming. This is because cloud computing is essentially a pay-per-use service.

When trying to foresee the future of live streaming, it is important to look at expected advancements in the technological and infrastructural aspects of delivering content. Live streaming technology exists on a pyramid of scale, with real-time interactions on the top and storage and compression at the bottom. The entire industry relies on the scale of this architecture, and the wider it becomes, the more effective the services will be.

Advancements in Technology and Infrastructure

An important standard for the compression of audiovisual data for television has been set with the adoption of the MPEG-2 standard. Compression technology is very important in providing high-quality streaming video to the end users without an excessive buffering period. With the rise of live streaming and video-on-demand services, quality of service, security, and personalized content are the key drivers for the success of a service. High Definition TV has brought about seamless integration between television and IT services. Live streaming over an IPTV architecture can now be achieved with relative ease, given the appropriate network infrastructure and sufficient bandwidth.

Advancements in technology and infrastructure in Singapore have played a large role in shaping the future of live streaming. Singapore is leading the region in an ongoing transition to digital television broadcasting. This transition, with the ASO (analogue switch off) to digital TV broadcasting, will free up frequency spectrum for wireless broadband services. IDA has mandated requirements to provide nationwide outdoor mobile coverage for the transmission of television programme services in the DVB-H format. This will lead to an increased presence of TV on mobile devices, adding another dimension to TV anywhere. These technologies are only applicable to Singapore at a much later date, thus not covered in this paper.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Live Streaming

A major example of AR in live streaming could be in the field of e-sports. E-sports is a rapidly growing industry and is now starting to attract big audiences, often filling stadiums to watch events. By using AR, game environments can be projected onto real-world surfaces. An example could be a MOBA-style game being projected onto an arena stage, or a racing game being projected over a real race track. This blurs the line between the virtual and real world and can make spectating games a much more immersive experience. A project by a research team at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore has already been done on this form of AR with positive results.

The potential for VR and AR in transforming live streaming is substantial. An example of VR in live streaming could be the ability for viewers to have a simulated experience of being at a concert from their own home. They could be projected into a virtual concert hall where a live stream of a concert is taking place. This can provide a cost-effective solution for people who don’t have the means of attending a live event. This would be beneficial for the organizers of the event too, as virtual attendance could be monetized. A portion of the live stream can be restricted only to those with a VR ticket.

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are recent innovations in technology that are gaining traction in the entertainment industry. VR refers to complete immersion in a simulated world generated by a computer. This can be done using special VR headsets or projection rooms. AR, on the other hand, is the incorporation of computer-generated imagery into the real world. Examples of AR range from apps on your smartphone, such as the popular game Pokémon Go, to something complex like projecting buildings and landscapes into the city environment.

Personalization and Interactivity in Live Streaming Experiences

Stepping away from pure personal interaction but linked to personalization are interactive ads that go directly through a stream. Sky has pushed its interactive advertising through live TV, but it can be directly translated to streaming. Imagine an ad for a game that appears in an overlay on the stream, and the viewer can play a small part of the game straight from the advertisement. This can lead to potential sales as the viewer may become invested in the game through that short interaction and can provide data to the advertiser on how many people played the ad-game – this is essentially a conversion to actual views on the ad.

Another idea is contest/follower notification. If a streamer holds a contest using a hashtag on Twitter, there could be an automatically updating list of people who have tweeted with that hashtag. This is useful when you want to avoid missing someone who should be on that list.

Certain broadcast websites enable streamers to introduce trackers in their stream chat. Streamers can see who their most active chatters are and then integrate a command to allow the bot to call that person out. From a psychological standpoint, people like to feel important, and if they are called out by the streamer, that is a personal interaction that is likely to make the viewer come back.

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