MIAMI — At a time when television’s import-export business is booming, China is eyed by Western media companies as Shangri-La, a market more than double times the size of the U.S. with some 400 million television homes.
But the business of television is a two-way superhighway. China’s TV production community was on display at NATPE this week as the conference hosted its first-ever China Pavilion. The fact that so much Chinese investment coin is flowing into Hollywood has also heightened interest in building stronger business ties among Chinese and Western production players.
Eighteen companies, including CCTV and a subsidiary of Shanghai Media Group, exhibited their wares on the trade show floor, an effort organized by the Beijing-based China Television Drama Production Industry Association and state entities. Many of those companies are expected to participate in the first-ever MIP China conference set for May in Hangzhou, about 700 miles south of Beijing.
Hangzhou is home to Huace Group, which came to NATPE to shop such shows as “The Legendary Tycoon,” a period biopic about famed Chinese film mogul Run Run Shaw, and “My Amazing Boyfriend,” a supernatural romance about a woman who falls for a mummy. “Boyfriend” has been a hit in China via Internet giant Tencent, and has aired in the U.S. on the DramaFever SVOD service.
Animation and wacky reality shows were a big component of the programs on display in the China Pavilion. SMG’s WingsMedia division handed out thick bound catalogues detailing its library of shows spanning all genres.
Cecilia Zhu, vice general manager of Huace Group, said the company’s hope in setting up shop at NATPE this week was to raise awareness of the volume of its offerings, particularly among Latin American buyers. She’s also looking for co-production partners. Huace is working with the U.K.’s ITV on the reality series “Dancing on Ice” and a new drama.
Zhu said Huace has seen interest among Western buyers in Chinese TV series grow in the past few years. In the past the nation had the reputation for only producing costume dramas and historical fare. But now producers are delivering “fresh new dramas [depicting] young peoples’ life in China,” she said.
Huace launched in 2005 and now produces more than 1,000 hours of television a year. The company went public in 2010. Zhu sounded like many a program sales exec at NATPE as she touted her hot prospects and reeled off viewership stats, including the assertion that Hauce-produced programming generates 100 billion hits a year online.
China’s dominant state broadcaster, CCTV, came to NATPE to show off its documentary productions and dramas. Sunny Sun, international cooperation department distribution manager for CCTV’s sales arm, pointed to a new release, “A Bite of China,” a documentary look at the journeys of young adults from urban centers who return to their small-town homes to be with their families during the New Year’s holiday period.
Sun said more producers sought her out in CCTV’s corner booth in the pavilion this year than in CCTV’s past visits to NATPE. Like Huace’s Zhu, Sun acknowledged that Chinese scripted programming is still a hard sell in the U.S., so her focus was on shopping dramas to other territories. “American dramas are really great,” she said.
(Pictured: Cecilia Zhu)