SHANGHAI — Chinese television is still dominated by mighty China Central Television, the only national broadcaster, which rules the roost with a dozen channels of state-approved news, drama, sports, docus and talkshows.
CCTV also dominates the TV ad market, taking home the lion’s share of close to $8 billion spent each year on TV ads on the mainland.
Locally, however, it is city-based broadcasters such as Shanghai Television (STV) and Beijing Television (BTV) that top the ratings. In Shanghai, for example, the top 10 spots on this summer’s ratings all went to STV. In Beijing, the top nine positions went to BTV, with CCTV sneaking into 10th place with its daily weather report. The same trend continues across the rest of the vast country, with locally produced content winning viewers.
Kung-fu dramas — often set in the Yuan and Ming dynasties — dominate during all hours of the day. The most recent hit, which played across various nets this summer, was “The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre,” the story of a child born to parents from warring clans.
Foreign programming is still in limbo on Chinese TV. While some shows have succeeded in syndication, imported content is restricted by law to 25% of total programming. Discovery, MTV and Nickelodeon, among others, continue to mine this route and draw large auds.
China this year became the first foreign news provider on terrestrial TV, in a content swap deal with STV’s business channel. Direct foreign investment in Chinese cable and terrestrial networks is, however, out of bounds.
There are signs that foreign programmers are beginning to get round this, however. Encore Intl. has been managing an evening block of movies and drama on CCTV 8 for some time.
Satellite is tightly restricted throughout China, with all foreign content limited to five-star hotels and foreign residential compounds. The last 18 months, however, have seen the granting of new landing rights to a handful of foreign channels looking to make inroads into the Chinese cable market.
Restricted to a small, but growing, area of prosperous Guangdong Province, viewing figures are reportedly improving.