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Fast-Changing Chinese TV Landscape Is Backdrop to MIP China Second Edition

For executives led by the “MIP” prefix to expect a sprawling, MIPCOM-style sales jamboree, MIP China is likely to come across as smaller, more intimate, and more pedagogical.

MIP China, which kicks off its second edition Wednesday in Alibaba’s home town of Hangzhou, is instead aimed at companies looking for relationships, not quick transactions. Organized in partnership with local firm China Media Management Inc. (CMM-I), the event is pitched at Chinese companies looking outward, and at international companies looking for Chinese partners.

MIP China kicks off more than two weeks of entertainment trade events in the Middle Kingdom. It’s followed by the high-decibel Shanghai Television Festival and CES Asia conventions and then the Shanghai International Film Festival, which runs June 16-25, in China’s commercial capital, not far from Hangzhou.

“MIP China is a small event for people with full agendas,” Ted Baracos, MIP China director, told Variety. About 400 delegates from 38 countries have registered for the two-day event. They come from firms including ITV and Viacom, with A&E, All3media, ABS-CBN and Europe’s Millimages among the returnees after last year’s debut. The Chinese contingent comprises 51 companies.

With clear parallels to film and TV project markets, the core of MIP China is the Partnership Forum, consisting of one-on-one meetings that organizers broker between like-minded companies. Beyond the core meetings, the event also packs in networking events, a summit conference, lunches, dinners, and training sessions. Many of the training sessions are about coaching Chinese companies how to expand their business abroad, with much of the training in Chinese by experienced Chinese execs.

There is plenty to discuss. China’s television industry is expanding fast, driven in large part by the country’s aggressively expanding streaming platforms, which by several measures have already overtaken traditional TV broadcasters. The streamers are certainly spending more in their pursuit of original content, while also having to contort their lineups and deal structures to meet changing regulatory requirements.

“The rules are changing in China. It is increasingly difficult to do traditional licensing, and we’ve seen an ongoing attack on formats,” Baracos said. Companies are being steered towards co-production, changing their financial models, and creating IP that will remain in China. “This may not be everybody’s favorite business model, but if you want to do business in China, this is where it is at.”

The MIP China networking model is intended to maximize cross-border, business-to-business discussion. Weeks or days before the convention starts, delegates are asked to feed their interests, genre, and partnership preferences into a proprietary MIP-owned database that has been road-tested at the MIPCancun meetings. As on a dating app, delegates are required to rank their preferences. Where there are absolute matches, the algorithms spit out automatic meeting times. For imperfect matches, it makes suggestions. Some companies arrive with up to 18 pre-scheduled face-to-face rendezvous in the diary.

“The second edition is always very important for any trade show,” said Baracos, adding that several of the Chinese companies are attending with larger teams. “We hope to establish the basis for a business tool that delivers value. We will see where it goes from here.”

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