Harnessing the power of digital

Singtel’s digital businesses are gearing up to seize opportunities created by an increasingly connected world. Group Digital Life’s CEO Samba Natarajan shares insights on the digital landscape and how the Group’s digital investments will continue scaling in Asia.

What were the key developments for Group Digital Life in the past year and what’s the focus in the year ahead?

Samba: FY 2020 was a challenging year for our businesses. Amobee faced intense competition as a slew of new players entered the market, and the integration of Videology, which we acquired in 2018, took longer than expected.

We took the difficult decision of closing HOOQ as its business model was no longer viable. Despite acquiring millions of customers and becoming a leading platform in Southeast Asia, HOOQ faced significant structural changes in the streaming video market. With the high cost of content and consumers’ willingness to pay faltering amid an increasing array of choices, HOOQ was not able to grow sufficiently to provide sustainable returns nor cover content and operating costs.

In the coming year, we will continue to invest meaningfully in new technology that will allow us to create differentiation from our competitors. We are also seizing opportunities in digital TV for Amobee and leveraging the increasing demand for mobility data analytics with DataSpark. Our focus is also to continue investing in new growth engines through Innov8, particularly digital health and fintech.

What does the future hold for the marketing industry, and how is Amobee positioned to capitalise on these trends?  

Samba: Two key industry trends are set to challenge the way marketers identify and reach their audience. First, the convergence of traditional and digital TV is resulting in a lack of visibility of audiences across these channels. Second, the imminent removal of third-party cookies from web browsers will cut off a typical source of insights on demographics and purchase patterns.

We have had a head start in offering converged traditional and digital TV advertising solutions, to help marketers resolve this issue and gain insights on TV audiences, especially with Videology. This will be particularly useful for businesses that spend on a mix of both traditional and digital forms of advertising. With this lead, we’re innovating ahead of our competitors to create a full suite of converged advertising solutions.

To help marketers gain insights beyond those provided by third-party cookies, we’ve built a range of brand intelligence and data assets by inking significant partnerships with data providers including Nielsen’s software company Gracenote, and Vizio. Through these partnerships, we will be able to give marketers more accurate insights on audiences in a cookie-less world.

We’ve also launched a new line of business on the back of a landmark partnership with ITV, one of the UK’s largest broadcasters, to enable broadcasters to monetise consumer views as consumption shifts from traditional linear TV to video streaming.

DataSpark gained ground in FY 2020. How do you envision continuing this traction in FY 2021?

Samba: DataSpark has made positive strides in bringing mobility data analytics to sectors such as transport and out-of-home media in Singapore and Australia. The focus for FY 2021 is to continue expanding into new areas where such analytics offers a compelling advantage, such as providing aggregated visibility on population mobility patterns for healthcare and government agencies.

We have a good foothold in helping Optus and our associates optimise spend based on analytics, and we intend to replicate this for other mobile operators globally. We will also look at combining insights from telco data with first-party enterprise data in the consumer goods sector, to deliver new use cases in advertising and store inventory optimisation.

Innov8 has been building its investments in areas such as fintech. Are these new growth drivers for the Group?

Samba: Innov8 continues to be a powerful platform for the Singtel Group to keep a finger on the pulse of the digital economy and innovation. It provides access to leading solutions in areas that are important to us such as big data, cyber security, digital healthcare, financial services and next-generation networks.

For example, as we start to explore digital banking, we are scouting for up-and-coming fintech start-ups that are developing technology that could complement core banking services. Through ICE71, the region’s first cyber security entrepreneur hub founded by Innov8 and NUS Enterprise, we stay on top of the latest cyber trends, enabling us to defend our own assets and those of our enterprise customers amid a rapidly evolving threat landscape.

Innov8 also positions Singtel as the preferred 5G partner, bringing us closer to the latest technologies that will advance networks and use cases.