Kevin Ho graduated from Birmingham City University in 2003. Since 2004 he has been a development producer at the Right Angle Media, an independent production house based in Singapore that specialises in factual content. His job is to come up with ideas, develop them and pitch them to channels. Kevin has developed concepts for local Singaporean channels as well as international channels, including the National Geographic Channel, Discovery Asia, History Channel Asia and BBC Knowledge. He was good enough to send us a guest post relating our work to his industry experiences in South East Asia.

I visited the interactive culture blog. Things really have moved on a lot since I graduated, despite Britain’s famed love of times gone by!

The 4ip fund is very interesting. It reminds me of the continuing struggle we’re facing in Singapore to figure out how to get stuff broadcast on mobile and online. This is despite the fact that Singapore is now the most wired country in the world (though I suspect the previous leader, South Korea, has simply upgraded to wireless and left us congratulating ourselves on an obsolete standard) and the government has some fund or other to encourage cross media content.

We are taking a little time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. For example, one commonly held belief was that clips had to be short and contain a lot of close ups so people could see what was going on. But you only have to think of what viewership would be like if Manchester United vs Liverpool were broadcast live via mobile. Everyone would be watching for the full 2 hours and they’d be able to see that pinprick of a ball for sure. Hammering further nails into that theory is the rise of the iPod Touch and other portable media players. I’ve got one with a 2.5 inch screen and, much to my surprise, I can actually understand what I’m watching.

We now think that, thanks to the ability of the mobile phone to be carried everywhere, programmes whose premier is popular are likely to be watched via mobile. These are mainly live events like sports, but could also be the finals of Britain’s Got Talent or American Idol. You don’t want the results to be spoiled, you don’t want to look like a loser, watching repeats the next day, you don’t want to feel cut out of any conversation involving “where were you when Paul Potts started to sing…”
 
The case of online TV is even more interesting, as most people still watch stuff online in their homes, which means the crummy quality of what is sometimes a bootleg broadcast is competing with their television sets. Some of this is because these people live in countries like China and can’t afford to pay to watch Premier League Football on cable.

One useful case study is that of Korean esports – professional gamers playing computer games broadcast via cable and online for fans to watch. The teams are sponsored, the leagues are sponsored and the TV stations sell advertising time. (I’m going to try to remember to send you a documentary I did on this… I keep promising this to people but I never, literally, deliver)
 
One Korean executive I spoke to said that esports was fabulous because it reached out to the missing generation of advertising – people aged below 30 who do not read the papers, do not watch television and generally ignore all forms of media except the internet. And when they are faced with the internet, they close pop up ads faster than they can load. Esports is the only thing they watch, and they generally watch it online. 
 
Because of that, I’ve seen a fair number of public service adverts during these esports matches, especially anti-smoking ones. Some of the sponsors also tend to be companies you’d think would invest heavily in more traditional ads. For instance, Shinhan Bank sponsors one of the very popular leagues to attract young customers. It’s impossible to reach them any other way.

Anyway, these broadcasts are available via cable and online. Online broadcasts are available as a service from the broadcasters themselves, but also on independent platforms like Gom and Daum Sports. I assume these platforms pay the broadcasters for the rights, or maybe it’s the other way round? The online quality is not as clear, yet online broadcasts are very, very popular.

Being a fan of these broadcasts myself, I’ve found that one of the biggest reasons why people like to watch online is the sense of community. Imagine watching a football game with 6 friends. You chat, you banter, you scream. Well, when these guys watch online, they open up MSN Messenger and IRC, they chat about the game with their friends, they post on esports forums as the game progresses, and it’s all stuff you would expect to hear if there were 10 people in a room together. Stuff like “He’s flanking! He’s flanking! I don’t know if this will work!” and “Oh wow, that was such a great move!”.

This is something online TV has over traditional TV – the ability to let people watch in a virtual group and communicate as they watch. The communication is done via text, so it does not take away much concentration from what’s being watched. The possibilities, I think, are enormous. Midsummer Murders could premier online, and everyone could log in to a forum where they could try to be the first to guess the murderer. Soap operas could premier online with everyone discussing the plot twists.

Most importantly, people tend to type short messages while the show is on, and longer ones during adverts. However, they also tend not to leave the room during adverts unless they have to, because there’s something to do. I’ve noticed that if a particularly good ad comes on, people start talking about it and those who missed it look out for it. That ought to keep advertisers very happy!

The Interactive technologies For Active Learning section reminds me of the book “Nudge”, which I have just read. It’s about how small changes can make people more inclined to act the way one wants them to (like having the picture of a fly on the urinals in Amsterdam to encourage proper aiming). Some of that is about how it’s easier than ever to get people to do what you want them to because with the internet, you can get them to sign up for programmes with “one click” instead of wading through forms. Might be useful when you want to nudge students to do what they ought to?

Birmingham Centre For Media And Cultural Research

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