by James Henderson

How a dynamic digital strategy revitalised Mediacorp

Jun 12, 2019
Digital TransformationIT Leadership

Parminder Singh, Chief Commercial and Digital Officer at Mediacorp, explains how data, analytics and artificial intelligence transformed a legacy media business into a global pioneer

Parminder Singh (Mediacorp)
Credit: Mediacorp

As the dust starts to settle on an historic year for Mediacorp, the Singaporean broadcasting conglomerate is assessing the impact of radical internal change.

In reaching 98% of Singaporeans across four languages, the media giant has evolved into the nation’s largest content creator and trans-media platform, spanning TV channels, radio stations and digital platforms.

Central to such a shift has been technology, used to reimagine a business steeped in the heritage of radio – first broadcast in 1936 – and television – first aired in 1963.

Fast forward to 2019 and the broadcasting business is booming through new ways of creating and consuming content, fusing data and analytics with specialist market expertise.

Keeping new competition at arm’s length is tough, however, leading to the establishment of an ‘ACE’ (algorithm, communities and engagement) strategy within the walls of Mediacorp.

“To ‘ACE’ this, you must know your algorithm, communities and engagement,” explained Parminder Singh, Chief Commercial and Digital Officer at Mediacorp. “Take algorithms, do you know how algorithms are shaping your business model or impacting your industry?

“For communities, are you leveraging the power of communities for co-creation and building scale?

“Also, engagement, are you on top of new technologies for engagement with your supplies, audiences and clients through mobile, virtual reality, augmented reality and many others?

“Mediacorp’s web series are so well received by viewers via the over-the-top platform that they are being adapted for TV series. This would have been unthinkable a decade ago. Staying put as a legacy business was never an option.”

‘Radical restructure’

Earlier this year, Mediacorp rolled out significant rate card changes designed to provide clients with “greater value, effectiveness and impact” with their advertising spend.

According to Singh, the change was in direct response to one of the biggest dilemmas facing advertisers today – whether to invest in mainstream or digital media.

Hence a restructuring of advertising rates, championed through the introduction of all-in-one trans-media master contracts which are long-term advertising deals of one year or longer covering Mediacorp’s multiple platforms.

“We are making these changes based on our audiences’ changing media habits and our clients’ feedback,” said Singh, when making the announcement in February. “With parity between TV and digital media, cost effectiveness of our revised TV rate card and flexibility of the new trans-media master contracts, we are confident that our clients will get significantly bigger bang for their buck.

“With our new trans-media solutions, advertisers and clients can embark on campaigns with greater confidence and focus on achieving results without worrying about being tied to specific media platforms.”

Singh said the change represented the first time that Mediacorp “radically restructured” its rates, heralding a “major departure” from standard practice in the television industry.

“Life should be made simple for customers, even in an era full of disruptions for the media industry,” Singh added. “The radical restructuring of the TV business helps customers freely deploy their budget across the trans-media platforms, by making pricing affordable, competitive and transparent.

“Advertisers are also given an unprecedented option of buying integrated ads across digital and TV platforms with Mediacorp’s strategic content partnership with YouTube in Singapore.”

For Singh, the overhaul came as the broadcasting model evolves from “command and control” to “demand and distribute”.

“Instead of tightly controlling content to command artificial premiums, distribute content across platforms your audiences prefer and price according to demand,” he observed. “Broadcasters are leveraging mediums like YouTube to broaden their reach and monetise premium content.

“As someone said, ‘people don’t want to buy a quarter inch drill, they want a quarter inch hole’. The key is to focus on the content and use all available platforms that can deliver it effectively.”

Today, Singh said “millions of users around the world” visit Mediacorp’s digital properties every month.

“We also collaborate and strike up partnerships with disruptors like YouTube; quality content creator HBO, VICE Media, ESPN; a local competitor to set up the advertising exchange and Singapore Media Exchange (SMX),” Singh added.

Power of tech

Having joined the business in March 2017, Singh works closely with the CEO to spearhead Mediacorp’s transformation into a trans-media company.

To achieve such ambitions, Singh draws on more than 25 years of in-market experience, following management roles at Twitter, Google, Apple and IBM.

“Keep learning, un-learning, re-learning and don’t stop innovating,” Singh advised. “By harnessing the power of big data and analytics, we can take consumers to stories they are interested in and the programmes they love.

“We help them discover more content that they relate to and design their digital experiences to be more immersive and personalised. This is key to our digital transformation and continual efforts to engage a new generation.”

Singh’s digital strategy is shaped by Mediacorp’s proprietary data analytics platforms; MeID and RIPPLE. Both won recognition at this year’s Global BIGGIES Awards competition, garnering a total of nine awards, including the Best of Show.

Held in San Francisco, the awards acknowledge best practices in data and artificial intelligence (AI) initiatives by media companies across the world, featuring brands such as BBC, USA Today Network and Channel 4 Television.

“RIPPLE is a universal content analytics hub which powers real-time streaming insights on an expanded gamut of multimedia content, from text, video and audio to images,” Singh said.

“Whereas MeID Audience Analytics Hub provides a single unified view of Mediacorp’s digital audiences by aggregating substantive user insights from predictive analytics, as well as disparate first-party and third-party data sources.”

But don’t just take Singh’s word for it.

“The judges have spoken,” said Martha Stone, CEO of Data & AI at Media Association. “Your analytics platforms are outstanding in their usefulness and thoroughness. Even though these platforms are relatively new, they show real promise for the future for content and perhaps advertising targeting.”

Such a global endorsement adds weight to the theory that through the use of technology – in this case data, analytics and AI – transformation agendas can be realised within the media space.

“As the one who is responsible for marrying business with technology, the biggest opportunity for me is to become the change maker by playing a central role to change the way the business is conducted,” Singh added. “But I have to stay focused. It is tempting to chase after the buzz around the latest and newest technologies. The key is to be able to distil the signal from the noise.

“It’s important to have the courage to disrupt your business; be open to partnerships and collaborations, even with competitors. Also, to spot the green shoots – just because a business is traditional doesn’t mean it can’t be revived.”