In the last half year, top Chinese broadcasters and OTT platforms have commissioned almost 300 new drama series – as many as those from all other countries combined, Ampere’s report said. Content in China skews heavily towards drama at the expense of other genres, with 67% of upcoming mainland shows falling into that category, compared to just 16% of upcoming U.S. ones.
Romance titles made up 14% of total Chinese series in production, compared to just 6% in the U.S. – not terribly surprising in Asia, where the genre tends to be more popular than in the West. Crime and thriller genre works were notably under-represented in China compared to other regions, making up just 10% of scripted commissions. The Middle Kingdom also produced very few comedy and sci-fi or fantasy commissions for television during the period in question.
“China’s commissioning habits have had a huge impact on the global TV slate. A preference for drama pushes the genre from second-most commissioned worldwide to No. 1,” Richard Cooper, Ampere Analysis’ research director, said.
By the numbers, China’s SVOD services are quickly catching up to the big U.S. names. Ampere expects leading Chinese platforms iQiyi, Tencent and Youku to reach 116 million, 108 million and 61 million subscribers, respectively, by the end of the year. That would put China’s top two industry leaders behind Netflix’s projected subscriber count of 164 million but ahead of Amazon’s 91 million.
There remains a big difference, however, between who in China is actually ordering new content versus the situation in the U.S. While nearly half the American shows in the past six months were commissioned by OTT platforms, only 8% of new Chinese ones were.
The vast majority of Chinese content is commissioned by numerous small local broadcasters. Nevertheless, SVOD platforms iQiyi, Tencent, and Youku were China’s most active individual commissioners of content, followed by the big traditional broadcasters Hunan TV, Dragon TV and Zhejiang TV.
Producers looking to target the vast China market should remain aware that “the underlying preference for drama is driven primarily by the regional broadcast networks,” Cooper said.
“The Chinese SVOD services, which have some of the largest subscriber bases in the world and now represent nearly one in 10 new series green-lit in China, echo the global and U.S. TV giants in terms of the genres they are commissioning,” he said.