China TV trade fairs and festivals

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Chinese Media Yearbook & Directory 2009

Danwei partner CMMI is Beijing-based media consultancy. They have published the 2009 edition of their China Media Yearbook and Directory.

The yearbook section of the publication features essays with summaries, analysis and forecasts on the development of China’s media and media policy. The book also includes a directory of China media businesses, publications and broadcasters, and more statistics and numbers about the Chinese media business than I have seen anywhere else in one place.

Below are excerpts from the television chapter of the yearbook, republished with permission. They chronicle China’s increasing attempts to take its TV content to international markets.

For more information or to purchase a copy of the book, please email Helen Sun on info@cmmintelligence.com or call (8610) 8418 6468.

TV Trade Fairs & Festivals in 2009

2008 was a strong year for program trade between China and the rest of the world with increased Chinese attendance at major international content fairs and positive results from foreign distributors selling at domestic markets.

According to interviews conducted at major fairs through the year, CMM-I estimates the volume of foreign content sold into China in 2008 increased 20-30% over the previous year. Notably, some major distributors reported significant increases in volume deals while others noted positive movement on copyright prices for high end products.


Meanwhile, exports of Chinese TV programs continued to gain ground with the total contracts signed for 2008 reaching US$440 million. In line with SARFT policies, a small number of international and domestic trade fairs are designated as official platforms for program exchange and these forums provide the clearest indication of trends in content trade.

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The Shanghai TV Festival in June boasted more industry workshops and conferences with international panels than previous years. The festival marked the 50th anniversary of the Shanghai television industry, but the event started on a somber note with the opening ceremony cancelled and other high profile events postponed due to official mourning following the Sichuan earthquake.

Representatives from 330 TV-related organizations attended this year’s Magnolia Awards ceremony and the DocuChina program received more than 200 applications from aspiring documentary makers across China. Polish film Let’s Go to the Movies Tomorrow won the Golden Magnolia Award for Film, while the home grown Soldiers’ Sortie received the Golden Award for TV series and Canada’s Achieving the Unachievable received the Special Jury Award for Documentaries.

The crowds on the STVF trading floor were thinner than previous years as stringent security measures introduced to prevent any incidents in the Olympic year limited the usual infiltration by unregistered visitors. While most professionals attend the festival to negotiate deals, a diverse range of companies with a variety of long-term goals were represented.

Major Chinese exhibitors included the Shanghai Media Group (SMG), China International TV Corporation (CITVC) and Shanghai HaiRun Film & TV Production. The New Media sector was well-represented with stands from Joy.cn, PPStream and Sohu.

The EU Pavilion (organized by CMM-I) was the largest international group exhibition, with displays from German Films, Filmfee, Media Luna, SevenOne International, Telepool, Deutsche Welle, Eurodata, Granada International, NPO and Power. India’s Zee TV was another foreign media company with a particularly prominent display.

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The trend toward higher participation at Chinese media events continued in early 2009, when the MIPTV content market in Cannes hosted the largest ever Chinese media delegation to an international event.

With an extended series of high level “Focus on China” activities and multiple announcements of business deals in both directions, the PRC took the opportunity of the first post-economic crisis industry convention in Cannes to project its increased confidence in engaging with international media on equal terms.

The Chinese group at MIPTV (which is represented in China by CMM-I) was led by SARFT Vice Minister Tian Jin and a senior delegation that included the organizers of the China International Animation Festival in Hangzhou and Hunan TV supremo Ouyang Changlin. A total of 300 Chinese delegates made the trip to France with CCTV’s commercial agency CITVC and the Capital Producers Association dominating an expanded China United Pavilion that also featured Jiangtoon Animation, Beijing TV and many others

CITVC alone reported export sales of US$3.5 million at the market, including deals for the Legend of Bruce Lee with RAI of Italy and a raft of documentary sales to European territories.

The Capital Producers Association, which brings together over 80 of China’s leading independent producers, built on its debut at MIPTV in 2008 by coordinating a series of major deal announcements. These included the first Sino-German co-production deal for a raft of TV movies signed between Action Concept and Asian Union. The latter company was also celebrating its strategic agreement with FremantleMedia.

Meanwhile, Crystal Animation arrived in Cannes fresh from its appointment to provide graphic services to the 2012 London Olympics to ink a deal with the UK’s Platinum Films. Wuhan TV was another well established Chinese company on the acquisition trail at MIPTV, picking up over 100 hours of science and technology content for its long running strand.

At the “Focus on China” conferences organized by SARFT itself, Tian Jin welcomed international partners to undertake drama, animation and documentary co-productions with leading Chinese companies. For the first time, SARFT felt confident enough to back up these words by organizing panels featuring both the foreign and Chinese parties involved in a series of international co-productions. SARFT believes these projects provide templates for the future and, in a clear sign that it is prepared to put aside political sensitivities to achieve high end production objectives, the documentary session panel included Brian Leith, Executive Producer at the BBC’s Natural History Unit. He spoke about its co-production with CTV Media on the landmark series Wild China.

At the animation and drama sessions, leading Chinese players, including Wang Lei of Shanghai Media Group’s Toonmax channel, outlined clear guidelines for foreign companies interested in partnering on new animation features, while leading drama producer/director You Xiaogang (Zhongbei) joined his counterpart from Russia’s Ren TV to explain how the two organizations approached the filming of the first Sino-Russian TV drama series.

Unlike previous years when the presence of senior SARFT leaders has been relevant mainly to the Chinese delegation itself, this year Tian Jin was forthright in projecting SARFT’s role not only as regulator but facilitator on an international basis. Indeed, the relaxed style of the visit and the acceptance of frank and open interviews with leading journalists from Hollywood Reporter, Television Asia, Content Asia and MIPTV Daily News contrasted with the previous China Day at MIPTV in 2004, when Vice Minister Hu Zhaofan was relatively guarded throughout the event.

At the official China Day luncheon, Tian Jin took the opportunity to go further in describing why China was increasing its exhibition presence and networking activities in the middle of a major global recession. He told the invited guests that entertainment industries have special responsibilities in tough times and that China is fully prepared to play an active role in helping the industry weather the storm.

At a private function attended by Tian Jin and Reed Midem CEO Paul Zilk, the leading role played by CITVC in building China’s presence in Cannes was marked by the awarding of the first ever MIPTV Platinum Award to CITVC Marketing Director Madame Cheng Chunli. The Award seeks to mark the achievements of a single executive who has represented his or her company and country at MIPTV for many years.

Tian Jin told senior Chinese delegation leaders that SARFT is committed to MIPTV and MIPCOM as crucial international platforms for the increasingly sophisticated exchanges now being inked by Chinese producers and distributors. He promised that SARFT will continue to support the holding of special activities at future markets.

Cutting through all the good news, the very significant efforts made by the Chinese delegation at MIPTV also reveal the strength and the speed with which the government has acted to make the most of the opportunities provided by a falling Euro and the retrenchment mentality now prevalent in many developed markets. This new sense that China is prepared to invest in western-style marketing to further progress its “Go Abroad” project for cultural products was symbolized by the hoisting of a major outside banner promoting the China International Animation Festival at the Palais des Festivals, the first time China has taken such a prominent position.

With Chinese investors playing an increasing role in the financing of co-productions and PRC drama and animation producers honing in on the qualities that have led to successful exports of Chinese features in recent years, China’s performance at MIPTV should not be seen as a one-off move, but the start of a centrally coordinated campaign.

Indeed, the crucial difference between 2009 and 2004, the last time a China Day was held at MIPTV, is that China has now built catalogues with real commercial relevance. Not only can China now supply more of the high volume, low cost content required by cash-strapped cable channels, it is also starting to satisfy world interest in the huge and strange country where the entertainment industries continue to grow.

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