The three-day Asia Television Forum conference and trade show kicked off in Singapore with a flurry of deals that highlighted the relative rude health of the Asian TV sector and also underlined the growing importance of China to regional expansion.

Much of the focus at the ATF so far is on boosting international partnerships, especially within Asia.

“Our growing international linkages and media collaborations are a vote of confidence in the capabilities of the Singapore media industry at large,” said Christopher Chia, CEO of Singapore’s Media Development Authority.

Chia kicked off a deal-signing ceremony with a 3D movie, a format Chia said was becoming increasingly important to the growth of the TV business.

Among the shingles signing deals with a strong Chinese flavor were Shanghai Media Group and a new group called Xinya Media, based in Singapore, and much of the focus is on repackaging Chinese content to sell abroad.

Singapore’s MyChinaChannel signed an agreement with Shanghai Media Group’s distrib arm, Wings Media, to co-produce two infotainment skeins: “China Trend,” a 13-part skein about modern China and “Foreigners in China,” which documents how foreigners adjust to living there.

“China’s growth and transformation in the past and coming years is more than fascinating and it has translated into equally captivating subject-matter for content creation for the global market,” said Melvin Ang, executive director of MyChinaChannel.

SMG said it believed it was time for China-made content to cross borders and capture international viewers.

Singapore info-communication group StarHub signed a strategic partnership Xinya Media, a media content and platform management group that is seeking to create a Mandarin Chinese platform for content.

China is hot right now, despite the global recession, and Xinya aims to capitalize on the appetite for exported Chinese content.

“There is never a right time, but this is a question of opportunity. We see an interesting gap in the rising interest in Chinese content,” said Xinya prexy Wee Ah Kee.

He said that while the initial priority was selling mainland Chinese content abroad, it was also interested bringing content into China. It also has links to Mandarin-speaking Taiwan, and Mandarin is also one of the official languages of Singapore.

“Cultural shows are a very good way of crossing borders,” he said.

Xinya’s partners include media group Azio, mainland shingle Jinyingma, and the investment arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board. The group also has links to national broadcasters including Germany’s Deutsche Welle and China’s CCTV international unit.

Other deals included a strategic partnership between Technology Seed Incubation, a Japan-based investment company, and Thymos Capital LLP, a Singapore-based incubator focusing on interactive digital start-ups, aimed at boosting links in the biz between Japan and Singapore.

“With a number of competent creators and programers, the digital media industry is among the few industries in which Japan enjoys its competitive edge but have not been successful in fully exploiting its potential,” said TSI prexy Hiroyuki Ohnishi.

Thymos partner Bernard Leong said the deal would offer their incubates to explore the Japanese market.

South West Screen, a development agency for the southwest of Blighty, has linked up with the MDA to launch a new funding initiative to co-develop concepts with multi-media potential and cross-media elements. The MDA also announced the first Singapore-U.K.-China HD co-production deal for a documentary series called “Monumental Challenge,” which will air on the History network. Deal is a linkup between Oak3 Films, Medialab, Blink Films and China Intercontinental Communication Center, and will be a series about six of the world’s greatest monuments.

The first day of the event at the Suntec Exhibition Center was well attended.

Aslinda Ali, account executive at the MP and Silva international sports media company, said her company, whose clients include the BBC, ESPN and Eurosport, was attending for the first time.

“So far, so good. People have dropped by who we’ve not arranged meetings with, so let’s see how it goes,” she said.

Coinciding with ATF, Sony Pictures Ent. Networks Asia announced that it had a series of major title acquisitions from CBS that are set to bow in 2010 on various SPENA channels. They include “NCIS: Los Angeles,” which will air on AXN, and “Melrose Place” and “Three Rivers,” which will show on Sony Ent. Television.