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Can the Shanghai TV festival survive?

Confab's endurance tested as it separates from film fest

The big question for the 13th Shanghai Television Festival is whether it can survive being cut adrift from its younger, higher-profile film festival cousin.

With joint TV and film markets, STVF and the Shanghai Intl. Film Festival have attracted big-name international and domestic vendors and buyers in recent years. But how many companies will want to maintain a presence over the new two-week, back-to-back schedule remains to be seen.

For a TV market that’s better known as a place to be seen than a place to do business, getting companies to come back year after year is essential.

Britain’s Granada Intl. is one of the overseas companies returning to STVF. This year, it has expanded its presence with a bigger booth on the corner of the EU Pavilion, which last year featured Bomanbridge, Deutsche Welle, Endemol Intl., Film London, German Films and many more. Not everyone is back, however. Film London, for one, will not be attending this year.

But Granada is upbeat about the Chinese TV market. “Last year, we had a good reaction to our shows,” says James Ross, the company’s regional director for Asia. “I think it helps that we are not just British content; we have a more global outlook.”

Granada will be touting formats including entertainment skein “Dancing on Ice”; animation in the form of “Pocoyo” and “Super Normal”; docus such as “Seconds From Disaster” and “Mega Structures”; and a raft of drama series, including a Jane Austen collection.

Entertainment formats are starting to make their way into China, with last year seeing several major foreign franchises licensed by Chinese broadcasters.

“We sense that overseas content providers are less worried about piracy than they used to be,” comments one Chinese exec producer, who is seeking reality skeins in particular. “When you buy a format, there is a lot more support than trying to reinvent it yourself.”

But drama series continue to be the mainstay of popular programming in China, and STVF is keen to promote co-productions. Last year, Canadian producer Raymond Massey engineered a co-production deal between the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and two Chinese production houses that has resulted in “Iron Road,” a four-part miniseries that recently wrapped in Zhejiang Province’s Hengdian Studios.

Success for many overseas production companies at STVF is not measured merely by sealed deals, however. “We don’t walk away from many of these types of festivals with signed contracts in our hands,” says Granada’s Ross. “It is more about making relationships that build over time. And Shanghai gives us a chance to meet TV people who maybe wouldn’t travel to festivals as far away as Mipcom (in France).”

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