Singapore Media Festival, Hong Kong FilMart Discuss COVID Strategy

New features are being added to Asia’s audiovisual rights markets as a way to retain and attract executive interest. This is despite the fact that business travel in Asia remains very problematic.

The Singapore Media Festival launched on Thursday. They are now opting to use a hybrid format that includes both online and in-person components. But Hong Kong’s FilMart, traditionally Asia’s largest film and TV rights market, this week announced that its March 2022 convention will be held online-only for the third time.

The FilMart organizers’ announcement did not even try to explain the reasons for cancelling the in-person meeting. This could be viewed as dangerously anti-patriotic.

The Hong Kong government has adopted a zero-COVID policy, in line with policies in mainland China. Hong Kong’s immigration and health authorities must adopt the strictest and longest quarantine system in the world. This is against the wishes of foreign business groups, who have expressed concern that Hong Kong could lose its status of a major hub for finance, trade and legal matters. With the prospect of China keeping its borders essentially closed for another 12 months, Hong Kong’s other flagship events, including the Rugby Sevens Tournament, have also moved dates or stayed online only.

Singapore has a vastly higher coronavirus caseload – it reported 2,079 cases on Wednesday (2,070 local and in dormitories, 9 imported), compared with Hong Kong’s six (zero community infections, 6 imported) on Thursday – yet it is Singapore that is now rebuilding its hub status by restoring travel links, including reopening the land border crossings with Malaysia.

Among the SMF component events, Thursday’s VidCon was held in-person at the Suntec Convention Centre. The Singapore International Film Festival kicked off the same day with a restricted-seating opening ceremony at the Shaw Lido and a presentation of Edwin’s “Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash.”

“All screenings will be held in theaters, in the format they are meant to be enjoyed,”Emily J. Hoe was present at the pre-launch on Tuesday. Hoe joined the festival committee in 2012 just as lockdowns began. However, seven months later, Hoe was able to host an online festival.

Asia Television Forum is a conventional rights market. The forum will be hybrid within a mix. The opening day of the forum’s conferences and speeches will be live streamed at the Marina Bay Sands auditorium. Most executives will watch the proceedings live, and then use ATF Online Plus to access their personalized meetings and business presentations. The market section will be focused on China while the conference section will concentrate on Asian streaming platforms and how these are changing production and distribution models.

The ATF Online Plus platform will remain functional until June next year, allowing business to be continued long after the SMF – and FilMart – has finished. All one-on-1 project meetings will be done online.

Possibly the most disrupted SMF component is Singapore ComiCon, which may be quite unlike its high energy, fan-forward namesake in San Diego, and may be less focused on games playing than last year’s online confab. The SGCC will break up into two separate parts, and it will be open for one month beginning Dec 3. The SGCC Online will include virtual stages, conventions, workshops and other activities that are reminiscent of real-world pop-culture conventions. Shoppee supports the SGCC E Mall and it is a month of merchandize sale.

FilMart’s response is to launch a new conference program. EntertainmentPulse will host speakers who share the latest developments in streaming and content creation with audiences and also inspire them with the latest technological innovations in production.

There is hope in the recent Tokyo and Busan rights markets. Busan’s hybrid (but mostly online-based) market saw participation rise in its second edition e-edition, which was held in October 2020. It is difficult to arrange outbound and return travel, but participation in the local market will continue to be strong.

Many executives are now used to having at least half a dozen Zoom meetings per week and feel comfortable dialing in from overseas, giving online markets an international flavour and making them meaningful. The question is still on many TV and film professionals’ minds whether they will travel to Berlin in February 2019 or Cannes in May.

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