Chinese TV Reaches for the Remote

2011/12/5 11:32:00 (Beijing Time)   Source:Global Times    By:Leng Mo

Chinese TV drama production has reached about 14,000 episodes annually, making an overall 1.1 trillion yuan ($172.8 billion) domestically. Export sales abroad have also risen, but the favored genres are still limited.

China International Television Corporation, a major Chinese television production company, has closed a $3 million deal with this year's Cannes TV festival. In the wake of the deal, China's television industry turns its gaze on a future in which its own programming meets such success abroad.

Chinese television dramas have been moderately well received in other Asian countries over the last decade. In 1999 the historical comedy Princess Pearl entered the South Korean market and was so popular that major Korean TV channels including KBS, MBS and SBS were all showing it at prime time. But South Korea has since protected its own market by importing less television from overseas, and Chinese dramas have been largely out of the picture.

Japanese drama programs are typically aired weekly, while Chinese television dramas are shown daily. The different viewing habits offer little opportunity for Chinese programs to be broadcast in Japan. However, the historical drama The Firmament of the Pleiades has reached a large Japanese audience, popularizing an event from Chinese history in Japan. While the TV drama is a Chinese story,  it is a Sino-Japanese coproduction.

Vietnam imports the most Chinese television. Its channels air the 1983 classic Journey to the West and the romance drama Yearning (1990) frequently. As in China, Vietnam airs the most television dramas during summer and winter vacation. Vietnam has also established a trend of remaking popular Chinese television dramas, with Princess Pearl and Return of the Condor Heroes counted among them.

In terms of genre, historical drama is the most popular, with series like The Three Kingdoms, Reign of Yongzheng, and Empress Wu Zetian. The modern romance theme meanwhile enjoys great domestic popularity but is very hard to sell abroad.

"Westerners feel it is irrelevant to their lives. As for the Japanese and South Korean television channels, they think the production is not delicate enough," said film and television critic Li Chun.

Despite all this, Chinese television drama A Beautiful Daughter-in-law (Xifu de Meihao Shidai), which portrays marriage in the modern Chinese family, is currently being broadcast in East Africa, including Tanzania, with 100 million potential audience members.

According to Li, there has been growth in TV drama sales to Africa and the Middle East, but it is not significant yet. "Bruce Lee series were popular in a few African countries in the past. It will be interesting to see a Chinese family drama broadcast in Africa, but whether it is an exceptional case or a long-term trend is yet unknown," said Li.

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