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Author: SGX   |   Latest post: Wed, 25 May 2022, 3:20 PM

 

Mm2 Asia: Innovating With Cutting-Edge Content

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mm2 - Chairman

Media and entertainment industry veteran Melvin Ang is no stranger to courage and tenacity, values which form the backbone of his distinctive never-say-die attitude. 

These are attributes that stood Ang in good stead through the founding, development and expansion of SGX-listed entertainment group mm2 Asia Ltd - a growth journey that spanned 12 years. 

“Grit and resilience are values that are important to me, and also particularly relevant in the current climate,” said Ang, Founder and Executive Chairman of mm2 Asia.

“The definition of success can vary, but success cannot be achieved without grit and resilience. It’s about knowing that conditions are challenging and the effort needed will be great, but still believing enough in the long-term goals to keep pushing the boundaries and overcoming roadblocks.”

Ang, who had spent more than a decade of his career managing various TV operations, ranging from content production to regional co-production and advertising sales, had always dreamed of starting his own venture in the media space. 

“In the 1990s and the early 2000s, I was working in the heyday of television. There, I realised how powerful content can be in influencing, entertaining and educating the world, and the endless possibilities it holds as a business,” he recalled.

“I was serving as an advisor to the Managing Director of Media Prima in Malaysia, when I was presented the opportunity to take over a small studio producing a series for the TV station. I jumped at the opportunity, named it mm2, and haven’t looked back since.”

Established in Malaysia in 2008, mm2 Asia moved its headquarters to Singapore the following year. It began distributing films, and subsequently producing them in Malaysia and Singapore. In 2011, Singaporean actor Jack Neo wanted to produce a film about boys entering National Service, and that was the beginning of the “Ah Boys to Men” franchise. 

“We’ve been fortunate to be part of the journey spanning four commercially successful films, a female spin-off film “Ah Girls Go Army”, an episodic web series, and a stage musical to boot,” Ang recounted.

At the same time, the Group turned its attention to other Chinese-speaking markets - Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. It cultivated relationships and networks with the aim of learning from such collaborations. Consequently, it was able to start producing content in those markets as well. 

“We began to see our vision of a pan-Asian or regional studio taking shape. To fuel that vision, I knew I would need to tap the capital markets. This led to the listing of mm2 at the end of 2014,” Ang noted.

“With the resources in hand, we started taking strategic stakes in companies that are synergistic to the core content business, such as Vividthree Productions, with its computer graphics, special effects, postproduction and AR/VR capabilities, in 2015, as well as UnUsUaL Entertainment, the top concert promoter in Singapore, in 2016.” 

Weathering the Storm

The cinema business was the last piece of the puzzle in mm2 Asia’s attempt to move up the value chain of film production. Having a stake in distribution meant greater overall bargaining power for its content business. 

“In 2016, we bought our first two Cathay cinemas in Malaysia and branded them as mmCineplexes to learn the ropes. Subsequently, with the blessing of the Cathay Cineplexes owner, we bought over the operations for Singapore,” Ang said.

“We’ve often been criticised that the cinema acquisition transformed mm2 from an asset-light company to an asset-heavy one. However, we believe it has given us better access to and control of the very last mile where monetisation takes place for our films, as well as allowed us to network with many producers from around the world.”

However, when COVID-19 struck in 2020, all production work ceased. The Group was hit hard as filmmaking was halted, and cinemas were shuttered due to national lockdowns, or were forced to operate under capacity restrictions. 

“Every day was a battle during the worst of the pandemic - I was faced with the challenge of how to keep the business going, to safeguard the livelihoods of our staff, while still supporting our business partners and meeting our financial obligations,” Ang said.

“I’m fortunate to have the support of my team to help the Group weather the storm, and each day they motivate me to stay focused in steering us through these challenging times.”

Today, mm2 Asia owns integrated businesses across the content, entertainment, cinema, event and concert industries in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, and the US. After listing on SGX Catalist in December 2014, the Group was transferred to the Mainboard in August 2017.

The Group champions “Content and Media for Asia”, viewing the entire region as its customer base. Its network of content producers - from Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China - aims to create content that is not only successful in local markets, but also appeals to audiences across Asia.

“The key strategy that led to our rapid growth is our ability to join the dots of the entire business value chain,” Ang noted. 

“This is a particularly challenging task, especially in the creative industry where there is much ambiguity in the process, from start to finish. Our sensitivity and respect for creative talent in the industry put us in a very unique position to effectively balance commercial success and creative excellence.”

In fact, many of mm2’s commercial successes are the work of new talents. “Their success inspires and encourages me to do more,” he said. “It makes me happy to know they’ve made good with the opportunities, and now they’re on their way to becoming great in their fields.”

As a result, Ang remains passionate about discovering new talent and helping them scale fresh heights. “I’m always reminded of the time when I was starting out in my career, and of the mentors I met along the way. Without their trust and faith, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. This is my way of paying it forward.”

Remaining Resilient

Looking ahead, mm2 will continue to grow its presence in the key North Asian markets of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, where it has witnessed the strongest growth in the past five years. Other markets on its radar include Thailand and South Korea.

“In the content business, we have to constantly innovate to stay relevant,” Ang pointed out. 

“We’ve done well and proven our ability to operate effectively in the Chinese-speaking markets in the area of content creation. Moving forward, we want to expand into non-Chinese speaking markets, such as the US, Korea and Thailand, which are more mature, established and competitive.”

“We can learn a lot from being a part of their world-class creative environments, sourcing new talents and cross-pollinating ideas, and at the same time, propelling growth beyond the markets we're already operating in,” he added.

In particular, the rise of Over the Top (OTT) streaming platforms has been a key driver of the Group’s core content business. “We’ve seen increased demand for our content since the start of the pandemic, and we believe this trend is set to continue,” Ang said.

“We're anticipating that post-COVID, the streaming wars will persist, and cinemas will continue to recover with tentpole titles finally being released. The overall need for content will grow significantly across all markets, and we’re in a good position to capitalise on this wave.”

At the same time, mm2 will continue embracing technology to develop high-growth models across its business units and value chains. 

“We’ve announced new ventures in media tech, utilising blockchain technology, NFTs and cryptocurrency,” he said, referring to non-fungible tokens, which are digital assets bought in an online marketplace and stored on blockchain, a secure public ledger.

“These initiatives will expand our offerings across the different business verticals and generate further revenue from our existing content creation and distribution capabilities.”

Overall, mm2 has come a long way since its inception in 2008, Ang pointed out.

“We’ve transformed from a local production house into an entertainment company with diversified businesses across different geographical markets. Even with the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the underlying fundamentals of our business remain resilient, and we’re poised for recovery once restrictions ease.”
 

mm2 Asia Ltd

Headquartered in Singapore, mm2 Asia champions “Content and Media for  Asia”, with integrated businesses across the content, immersive media, cinema, event and concert industries in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and the US. Since being listed on SGX Catalist in December 2014,   and its successful transfer to SGX Mainboard in August 2017, mm2 Asia has strengthened its competitive advantage through the acquisitions of a majority stake in award-winning virtual reality, animation and visual effects studio Vividthree Holdings Ltd, as well as event production and concert promotion company UnUsUaL Ltd. With the establishment of mmCineplexes and the acquisition of Cathay Cineplexes Pte Ltd, mm2 Asia is currently one of the key cinema operators in Malaysia and Singapore.

The company website is:  www.mm2asia.com

Click here for the company's StockFacts page.

For the six months ended 30 September 2021 financial results, click here.

 

About kopi-C: the Company brew

Text: Jennifer Tan-Stanisic
Photo: Company file

kopi-C is a regular column on the SGX Research website that features C-level executives of leading companies listed on Singapore Exchange. These interviews are profiles of senior management aimed at helping investors better understand the individuals who run these corporations.

For previous editions of kopi-C: the Company brew, please click here.  

For more information, or if you would like your senior executives to be featured on SGX Market Dialogues, please send suggestions to jennifer.t@sgx.com.

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