Media

Blossoming production

Hunan TV’s deal with Qinghai channel signals consolidation ahead

They’ve got flower power

China’s latest TV hit Blossoming Flowers has been causing a stir. Some viewers seem to think its contestants have been blossoming a little too quickly.

The reality TV contest, which features girls and young women, has come in for criticism for the number of contestants appearing on stage in bikinis and other skimpy outfits.

But the show, which is aired on Qinghai Satellite channel but actually produced by Hunan Satellite TV, one of the country’s leading channels, is generally seen as having wider significance. In fact, it’s supposed to herald the dawn of a new era in Chinese broadcasting. In March, the two channels joined forces to create a production company that will make programmes for Qinghai TV.

Experts say the joint venture is going to be a game-changer. “This cooperation shows that they [satellite networks] are becoming more market-orientated and innovative in exploring new development models,” Miao Di, professor of Communication University of China, told the China Daily. He believes the deal will likely benefit both satellite stations.

It will certainly be a huge boost for Qinghai TV, which has been poorly run and has struggled in the ratings. The venture offers Qinghai access to Hunan’s library of hit TV shows, as well as a chance to learn from some of the industry’s leading commercial talents. Hunan employees feature heavily in the management ranks of the new company.

But what does the joint venture mean for Hunan TV? It has made its name in recent years by producing popular low-brow shows like Super Girls, China’s version of The X-Factor (see WiC38). But its dominance in satellite hits has been slipping. Other stations like Jiangsu TV and Dragon TV, the network in Shanghai, have both been producing popular rival shows. So analysts think the joint venture is designed to give Hunan TV another platform to reach out to a wider audience. Currently Qinghai appeals more to middle age viewers, while Hunan tends to focus on a younger audience.

More importantly, as reported in issue 53, China is heading towards wider convergence between broadcasting and telecom networks. Watching TV on a computer or mobile device is going to become a lot more popular. The State Council, China’s cabinet, has said that it expects network convergence to be implemented nationwide by 2015.

If that goes to plan, satellite networks will have to invest substantially in building a cable network to compete with the telcos. Market observers say the cooperation with Qinghai suggests that Hunan – fresh from its initial successes in programming – is looking at a different route, and hopes to take on the role of a content provider instead.

In fact, the joint venture is being orchestrated by the country’s regulator State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT), which is keen to restructure the broadcasting industry before network convergence starts to bite.

As it turns out, Hunan TV isn’t the only network looking for new ways to compete.

Back in February, Shanghai Media Group (SMG), a leading state-run media conglomerate, agreed to supply content from its China Business News Network (China’s version of CNBC) to the Ningxia Satellite Channel. Previously, only viewers from the Yangtze Delta region had access to CBN.

The Securities Daily sees it as another indicator of where the broadcasting industry is heading.

“This development will see one form of content being used in multiple channels, or the multiple use of content in different formats on various broadcasting platforms,” it reports.


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