IMDA releases long-awaited proposed changes to the Films Act
Dec08

IMDA releases long-awaited proposed changes to the Films Act

  On 4 December 2017, the Info-communications Media Development Authority of Singapore (“IMDA”) released its long-awaited public consultation paper on the proposed changes to the Films Act (Cap. 107). Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim, first indicated in January of this year that the government was looking to amend both the Films Act and Broadcasting Act to take into account changes in technology. One broad theme that emerges from the proposed amendments is the fact that the IMDA is focussing its regulatory efforts on the distribution and public exhibition of films. While changes are also proposed to include digital streaming technology under the regime, the emphasis on “public exhibition” indicates that IMDA is, for the purposes of the current consultation at least, taking a lighter-touch approach to regulating consumer-focussed over-the-top video streaming services. There are several proposed amendments, but this post sets out the four key proposals you should be aware of. Four key proposed changes Formalisation of co-classification scheme. Following successful trials in 2011 and 2015, IMDA now proposes to formalise its industry co-classification scheme. This scheme allows employees of industry players to register and be trained as film content assessors. These industry players will then be allowed to independently co-classify films up to the PG-13 rating through their film content assessors. Safeguards will be put in place to ensure the system is not abused, such as IMDA’s right to conduct sample audits of films that have been co-classified and penalties for misclassification. Introduction of video games class licence. Currently, video games are often submitted for classification by wholesale distributors. For video games classified as M18, point-of-sale requirements are attached to the classification certificate issued by IMDA (e.g. ensuring the games are not sold to under-aged consumers). The downstream retailers that sell the video games to consumers are often not made aware of these requirements, defeating their purpose. IMDA proposes introducing an automatic class licence scheme for retailers that sell video games on physical media (e.g. on DVDs) to make them directly responsible for complying with the point-of-sale requirements. The licence will be automatic with no registration required, and will not involve the payment of any licence fees. Clarification that the films licence is only intended to apply to the distribution and public exhibition of films. IMDA has clarified that its films licensing scheme is only targeted at the distribution and public exhibition of films and is proposing amendments to reflect this. Amendments will also be made to ensure that films publicly exhibited by means of streaming or other digital transmission are also included under this scheme. In determining what is a “public exhibition” requiring a licence,...

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Apple Music and the outlook for streaming in Asia
Jun09

Apple Music and the outlook for streaming in Asia

Apple has finally joined the music streaming party by launching Apple Music. We’re told that it will be available in at least 100 countries, including some in Asia. Much has already been written about the impact it will have on the streaming market in Europe and the US – but what is the outlook for music streaming in Asia? No international or regional players own the music streaming market – yet Apple Music will not be entering a crowded market – music streaming services are still relatively new in many countries and there are no international or regional players who have yet secured a commanding position. Although Spotify was founded as far back as 2006 in Europe, it didn’t launch in Asia until April 2013, and it is still yet to launch in several major Asian territories including Thailand, Japan and Korea. Pandora may have an estimated 80 million users but it is still limited to the US, Australia and New Zealand, so it has no Asia presence and is still far from being a truly international offering. Tidal is perhaps somewhere in the middle – it is currently available in Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand – which again means it is unavailable in a number of significant Asian markets. The music streaming market in Asia is rather more fragmented at a country level, with a number of hugely successful national sites, such as MelOn in Korea, Recochoku in Japan and Alibaba-owned Xiami in China. To succeed in these markets, international services such as Apple Music cannot simply roll out their US or European offerings and expect the users to follow – they will need to localise substantially to meet the expectations of local users. The biggest competitor of all will be piracy Analysts focusing on Europe and the US have looked in great detail at whether and to what extent Apple will be able to convert users from Pandora and Spotify to Apple Music In Asia, however, the bigger question is whether Apple will be able to convert users from pirate services. Piracy in Asia remains rampant. If one takes Singapore as an example – where 7 out of 10 young Singaporeans confess to actively engaging in piracy – legitimate streaming services face two key challenges. First, how do you convert users who are accustomed to accessing all of the music they want for free and with few perceived repercussions. And second, even if you do convert those users, how do you convert them at a price point that is profitable for the service, the labels and the artists, when the users are used to a price point of…er…free. Undoubtedly the launch of services such as Apple Music in the music space and Netflix, iFlix and...

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Netflix, HOOQ and a big week for TV in Asia
Feb09

Netflix, HOOQ and a big week for TV in Asia

It was a big week for online TV in Asia. Last Friday, Singtel, Sony and Warner Bros. made a big move into online streaming with the launch of HOOQ. The OTT streaming service, rumoured for some months, is already being viewed as a pre-emptive strike against Netflix. On Wednesday of last week, Netflix duly responded, with its first foray into the Asian market, announcing the launch of Netflix in Japan. 30 January: HOOQ is announced HOOQ is a joint venture between Singtel, Sony and Warner Bros. The service is set to carry a substantial library from launch (thanks in large part to the catalogues of its joint venture partners, Sony and Warner Bros.), with Hollywood blockbusters such as Spider-Man and Harry Potter and TV shows such as Friends and Gossip Girl. The joint venture went to great length, however, to explain that there would be local and regional content, with users promised “an extensive selection of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Filipino, Indonesian, Korean and Japanese movies and TV series”. A key theme from the CASBAA Convention in Hong Kong this year was the importance of local content and the joint venture seems to recognise that international streaming services will need to localise substantially to succeed in Asia. As for Singtel’s role in this – it provides the regional footprint through its group companies across the region. Singtel will not be the only telco in the region looking to move into streaming (many have launched domestic services already) but it may just be the only player right now with the regional scope to deliver a successful region-wide service (its corporate group has half a billion mobile customers spanning from Singapore to Australia). The service will be rolled out progressively as early as the first quarter of 2015, with Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Thailand being the initial launch territories. 11 February: Netflix makes its first Asia move Netflix has been notable by its absence in Asia (putting aside the large number of subscribers who reportedly access the service via unlicensed VPNs). Last year, it finally announced plans to launch in Australia and New Zealand – but until Wednesday, there was still no word on Asia. That changed when it announced that it would be launching in Japan from Autumn 2015. As with HOOQ, the announcement also confirmed Netflix’s intention of localising its offering, with “a strong selection of Japanese TV series and films”. Japan makes a lot of sense as a first move into Asia, given its well-developed technology infrastructure and 36 million broadband homes. We can, however, be certain that this will not be Netflix’s only Asia move. It has already raised a few eyebrows...

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