MIP China providing Chinese business a key to the door of foreign market opportunity

MIP China, an international content market trade show, is looking to connect with content distributors and producers in China and abroad.

MIP China, an international content market trade show, is looking to connect with content distributors and producers in China and abroad.

Organizer Reed MIDEM, in partnership with local firms Megamedia and China Media Management Inc, intends to use their expertise and success from MIPCOM (Marché International des Programmes de Communication), which has been held in Cannes, France for over 30 years.

The event in Hangzhou held in June comprised of two parts: one-to-one pre-scheduled meetings and a program especially designed for the Chinese market to highlight how the international market worked and what kinds of content these companies are looking for.

This year 506 delegates from 145 entertainment companies attended the event, up 9 percent from a year earlier, where 796 meetings were arranged for participants from 19 countries and regions.

“Our first goal is to help people in terms of content development, meeting people to create partnership for the future,” said Laurine Garaude, director of the television division at Reed MIDEM. “It’s more than just transaction. It’s establishing, building relationships, helping introduce them to the right people and then they can carry on business.”

The local city and provincial government have been supportive to the development of the culture industry, including film and television. In 2017, gross domestic product of Hangzhou City reached 1,255.6 billion yuan, 24.2 percent of which came from the culture industry.

Up to date, there are 2,690 film and TV production companies in Zhejiang, which ranks the second nationally following Beijing. In 2017, these companies have produced 106 movies and 53 TV series.

"Hangzhou is one of the most important, or second (place) in terms of production companies, and the city we saw is closest to replicating the atmosphere of our shows in Cannes," added Garaude.

Yang Le, CEO of Huanyu Film, a TV production company registered in Dongyang, Zhejiang Province, told Shanghai Daily that it was her second year at MIP China. Last October she and her company exhibited hand-embroidered costumes used in their Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) period drama, at the Cannes show.

“We hope to take Chinese culture and TV dramas abroad,” said Yang, after a meeting with Pacifica Media from the US.

The contents she intended to sell were mostly historical period dramas and wuxia (martial heroes) dramas, which are considered culturally more acceptable in foreign markets.

“Southeast Asia is now probably the biggest importer of Chinese TV series. But we felt the need to communicate with the Indian, African and European markets as well,” added Yang.

Laurine Garaude, director of the television division at Reed MIDEM, spoke at the opening ceremony of the second MIP China held in Hangzhou from June 6 to 7.

At present, Chinese companies work mainly in two ways with their foreign partners. First is co-production, where the Chinese and foreign companies both invest in production and share profits generated from the global market. The second way is to hire a foreign team to take charge of a certain part in production, such as the screenplay or visual effects.

Tang Huaiyu, distribution director from Zhejiang Shengxi Huashi, was seeking such international partners who could enable and facilitate their shootings abroad.

“Last year we met a Brazilian company at the fair and agreed to co-develop a TV drama about football, filmed both in China and Brazil. The Brazilian footballer Kaká was going to star in it. They told us the Brazilian government subsidized such co-productions heavily, which could cover half of our investment,” said Tang.

However the project flopped in the end as funds from government failed to be in place in time.

Selling Chinese content to foreign markets is not an easy task either. Hangzhou TThunder Animation Co Ltd signed an agreement with the French animation studio Millimages at last year’s event.

The French company got the right to distribute TThunder’s preschool animated TV series “Rainbow Chicks” in the international market, and sold it successfully to major channels including the Discovery and Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Lei Tao, CEO of TThunder, said the “Rainbow Chicks” was the first intellectual property they had developed and it took them five years.

Lei invited experts from BBC and Pixar and learned from scratch how to produce suitable content for kids between the ages of 2 and 4, the same age group as the popular British children’s program “Peppa Pig.”

“I think compared to these top IPs, what we (Chinese animation) lack is a good story, a good screenplay. And also the experience and feedback needed in the market.” said Lei. “That all needs time. To establish a brand you need at least eight to 10 years, but the capital requires fast money.”

“Rainbow Chicks” is centered on the adventures of seven young birds, each a different color, which represents the seven basic temperaments commonly found in a kid’s development.

It features a unique style of Chinese ink-wash animation. That aside you don’t see typical Chinese cultural icons, such as the Peking Opera.

“You can’t place your local culture in the animation willfully. The first rule is to satisfy the needs of the audience. Good content must be distributable,” added Lei.

Presently, overseas distribution income covers 30 percent of the company’s production costs. Lei expects it to rise to 50 percent in 2019.

“We hope to be a top global brand in preschool animation in the future,” said Lei.

Shi Jia

A scene from the one-on-one meetings at the second MIP China in Hangzhou.

The rapidly growing market also caught the attention of top runners in the industry. Sales heads from several important international companies showed up at the one-on-one meetings, including Warner Bros, Viacom International Media Networks, ZDF Enterprises GmbH and ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

The representative from Warnor Bros told Shanghai Daily that her job was to sell their format rights to Chinese broadcasrters and production companies for a local adaptation and she hoped meet with new companies here and touch base on the changes in the Chinese industry.

In the past they had worked with online platform companies like iQiyi and Tencent and broadcasters such as Hunan TV, Anhui TV and CCTV, but not anyone yet in Zhejiang Province.

Due to restrictions on imported films and TV series, and also cultural differences, the direct sales at MIP China is not as strong when compared to MIP Cancun, a similar event initiated by the same organizer four years ago.

“We are more oriented toward international cooperation. But last year we received requests from distribution companies, so this year we have included more salespersons in our one-to-one meetings,” said Li Ertian, general manager of Megamedia, co-organizer of the event.

Rainbow Chicks, a Chinese preschool animated TV series developed by Hangzhou TThunder Animation were sold to foreign markets thanks to the matchmaking made during last year's MIP China.

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