FILMART: Drama Adaptations are a Big Hit in China

Catherine Liu, Entgroup Solution Centre, Beijing EntGroup Century Data Technology Co, Ltd.
The HKTDC invited leaders in Chinese TV and video to talk on the TV and IP mania at yesterday's "Navigating the Chinese TV Market".
Leading Mainland Industry Executives Discuss Strong Demand at FILMART

HONG KONG, Mar 20, 2018 - (ACN Newswire) - Chinese mainland dramas adapted from popular novels, animations or video games are enjoying strong ratings on TV and online platforms, giving rise to huge demand for IP dramas. The topic was the subject of the thematic seminar "Navigating the Chinese TV Market," at the 22nd edition of the Hong Kong International Film and TV Market (FILMART), which runs until 22 March at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), the FILMART seminar featured several leading players from the mainland TV and online video platforms, offering insights on the development of mainland TV and demand for this IP genre.

- Steady development of mainland TV sector

Catherine Liu, Associate General Manager of Entgroup Solution Centre, Beijing EntGroup Century DataTechnology Co, Ltd said that after rising for the last eight years, the scale of mainland TV drama transactions peaked in 2015 and 2016.

With the amount of 2017 transaction expected to record a drop, the overall scale of TV drama transactions and the number of distributed productions have also shrunk, sparking improvements in production standards.

She noted that online platforms have become a major source of TV drama consumption. The number of major Chinese TV productions broadcast in each region remains at 280, while the top 10 major productions comprise about 45 per cent of the total broadcast. There is intense competition among the various platforms for broadcasting rights to major quality productions. IP dramas adapted from novels are the most popular among online viewers.

- Parallel broadcast and production for higher ratings

Ma Zhong Jun, Chairman and President of Ciwen Media Co, Ltd said that online content, such as online novels and articles, has become an important source for TV and film IP adaptations.

"As original authors have accumulated large followings, TV or film are more willing to purchase these IP for adaptation." But he cautioned that they are no guarantee for success, adding that Hollywood films and Japanese animations are also key factors in shaping the tast of Chinese audience for drama. He recommended taking into consideration global trends and the IP's extendibility - how adaptable the IP is to other formats - before making acquisitions.

He also noted that foreign TV dramas, such as those from the United States and Korea, are broadcast even while production is ongoing. The format, he said, allows greater interaction between the show and audience, and helps ratings. However, he said such arrangement is not feasible on the mainland, where TV dramas are subject to approval from censorship authorities.

Last year, the company piloted a non-golden drama production, which underwent simultaneous filming, broadcasting and submission for censorship approval. The drama content was revised based on audience feedback throughout the process, enhancing interaction and garnering the show positive reviews. The company hopes to produce more productions of this kind in the future whenever circumstances allow.

- Bold creativity a key driver of IP drama popularity

Chen Xiao, Vice President of IQIYI noted that while popular online novels enjoy strong following, the materials do not automatically succeed when adapted for TV drama. When an IP is presented in a new platform, its target audience also changes.

While the target audience of TV channels is larger than that of online platforms, the TV audience seeks new experiences different from reading the original novel. "In this sense, adaptation using bold creativity is key to driving the popularity of an IP drama."

Apart from sourcing different kinds of TV dramas, Ciwen Media also produces its own drama series, which are sold to TV channels in Asia and worldwide. Mr Chen said that as online content is played in the click-to-play format, the company does not set limits on the length of their previous online dramas.

To synchronise its productions with the standards of overseas TV channels, however, the company has imposed limits on the length of their drama productions, which are now set at 45, 60 or 90 minutes.

- Subpar infrastructures, a barrier to development

Mainland production companies have long been grappling with the issue of how to create extendibility in IP works. Hou Hong Liang, CEO of Daylight Entertainment Co, Ltd said that the company's IP dramas Nirvana in Fire and Ode to Joy enjoyed both high ratings and audience acclaim in the first season, only to see a drop in ratings or limited acclaim in the second season.

With the mainland TV and film sectors developing at a fast pace, the number and production value of TV dramas continues to rise. But the sector has yet to achieve higher levels of professionalism. A lack of infrastructure support for the sector in the areas of government policy, personnel and laws also hinders the extendibility of TV and film IP, where further development is only possible with well-defined standards in place.

- Quality production for higher ratings

Liu Zhi, Executive President, Croton Cultural Media Co Ltd said that producers should have a firm grasp of audience's needs and evaluate which types of IP they should acquire based on the broadcast time and their company's niches.

As online and TV dramas have different target audiences, there is an increasing degree of audience classification in the market. In developing drama productions, production companies may consider two different approaches targeting the "big" and the "small" audience segments. "They may produce a major production to attract the majority of the audience, or programmes that target the smaller audience segments," he said.

Mr Liu added that there is limited room for profits from the sale of TV and film rights. TV stations currently operate under a difficult environment while many online platforms are running at a loss. Turning TV dramas into an IP and merchandise collection, such as video games, film, comics and gifts, is one way to make the venture more profitable, similar to the Disney business model. In light of this, TV production companies and online platforms may consider collaborating on creating popular programmes.

- All-round strategy to extend IP lifespan

Ren Yi-wan, General Manager of Talent International Film Co, Ltd said that most US drama programmes previously centred around star actors, but that over time, American dramas have evolved into IP-oriented productions, which are serialised in seasons, and are well-developed so that any cast changes would not affect the shows' popularity. "The mainland sector is still at an early stage where IP dramas are oriented around star actors, who greatly impact a show's ratings. This is the result of an imbalance and a necessary phase, which will pass."

The company is also proactive in creating new IPs. One of the company's new IP, All New Jacky Chan Adventures, debuted as a TV animation series, followed by a collection of related products and a film version. Mr Ren said that the animation, which was serialised in seasons, was produced by a team of outstanding directors and production crew in cinematic style. The series was broadcast on both TV and online platforms to build a lasting IP.

FILMART website: http://m.hktdc.com/fair/hkfilmart-en
Entertainment Expo website: http://www.eexpohk.com
Photo download: http://bit.ly/2FMeSQh

FILMART schedule
19-21 March (Monday-Wednesday) 9:30am-6pm
22 March (Thursday) 9:30am-5pm

Media registration:
Media representatives wishing to cover the event may register on-site with their business cards and/or media identification.

About HKTDC

Established in 1966, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is a statutory body dedicated to creating opportunities for Hong Kong's businesses. With more than 40 offices globally, including 13 on the Chinese mainland, the HKTDC promotes Hong Kong as a platform for doing business with China, Asia and the world. With 50 years of experience, the HKTDC organises international exhibitions, conferences and business missions to provide companies, particularly SMEs, with business opportunities on the mainland and in international markets, while providing information via trade publications, research reports and digital channels including the media room. For more information, please visit: www.hktdc.com/aboutus. Follow us on Google+, Twitter @hktdc, LinkedIn.
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Contact:
HKTDC Comms & Public Affairs Dept. Banbi Chen, T: +852 2584 4525, E: banbi.yc.chen@hktdc.org Sunny Ng, T: +852 2584 4357, E: sunny.sl.ng@hktdc.org

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