China: TV focuses on Olympics

Mip Territory Reports

BEIJING — As with everything else in China this year, the TV biz’s focus is firmly on the Beijing Olympic Games in August, which promises to be a broadcasting bonanza while providing Chinese firms with an opportunity to highlight their wares.

Just as in the movie business, where a host of Olympic-themed movies is expected, TV programming is likely to be heavily sports- minded.

But another trend not to be ignored is the way Chinese companies are focusing more on homegrown product — including signs of greater ambition among the Chinese TV players to make sales.

“We are bringing all kinds of TV shows to the festival, including TV drama, animation, documentary, etc.,” says Wang Qiao, who is on the sales staff of the overseas department at China Intl. Television Corp. “Our major goal is to open the international market for Chinese TV products and to learn the taste of overseas audiences.”

That’s not to say CITC won’t also be buying.

“We are especially interested in documentary films, TV dramas and TV films,” Wang says.

Chen Qian, manager of distribution in the international business at WingsMedia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Shanghai Media Group (SMG), is also keen to promote products at Mip.

“Buying programs is not our focus,” Chen says. “In other words, there is more of a focus on domestic shows than foreign shows at the moment.”

WingsMedia is bringing three documentaries to Mipdoc and also has some English-language products for overseas markets from its recently launched English-language service.

Within the domestic market, reality skeins continue to be popular, particularly localized versions of U.S. formats. Satcaster Hunan TV, which scored a major hit with its “American Idol” hybrid “Super Girl,” announced in March that it had bought the rights to the “Ugly Betty” format and will rename it “Invincible Ugly Woman.”

Hunan TV also has licensed Blighty’s Granada Intl. hit “Saturday Night Takeaway,” while Sichuan Cable TV is running a localized version of CBS Paramount’s “America’s Next Top Model.”

However, reality skeins are not having it all their own way — several live in constant fear of crackdown. The government is currently running an antivulgarity campaign against all manner of content it considers inappropriate, claiming some high-profile scalps, particularly among the fiercely competitive satcasters.

That leaves room for modern youth and family dramas as well as the costume drama, which has long been the mainstay of Chinese TV. Though it has lost some ground to other formats in recent years, it remains popular. A big hit for CCTV this year was “Tianxianpei,” a costumer based on a very popular Chinese fairy story.

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