Rich ratings

TV drama proves a sensation – it has been watched 30 billion times online

Dilraba Dilmut

Actress Dilraba Dilmut, who was talent-spotted by TV megastar Yang Mi

She may have first become famous as an actress, but more recently, Yang Mi has become better known as the “Goddess of the New Third Board”, an over-the-counter bourse in Beijing. That’s because Jiaxing Media, a production company she partially owns, has seen its market value soar after the release of Yang’s latest hit show Eternal Love.

Since its debut on Zhejiang Satellite TV and Dragon Satellite TV, Eternal Love has dominated ratings. When the series concluded last weekend, it had accumulated over 30 billion views on online video platforms (plus more than 4.3 billion tweets on Sina Weibo), cementing Yang’s status as one of the most bankable stars in the country.

The 58-episode historical drama is based on a popular novel by the same name, telling a tragic love story that spans three lifetimes. In addition to Yang, it also stars Taiwan’s Mark Chao and newcomer Dilraba Dilmurat.

So what makes the show so popular? China Business Journal reckons that the novel had already built a large fan base amongst younger women of the post-1980s and 1990s generation. Additionally, critics find the drama irresistible because of the sharp writing and strong production values (the series reportedly cost as much as Rmb300 million to make).

For most people, Yang’s star power is the selling point. “Yang Mi is stunningly beautiful. Her every wink every smile just makes my heart flutter,” one netizen gushed on weibo.

“I spent two days binge-watching the show. I now understand why every TV series Yang is in ends up becoming a big hit,” another wrote.

Taking advantage of the buzz, Jiaxing Media, one of the investors behind Eternal Love, announced plans early this month to raise as much as Rmb275 million ($39.84 million) worth of new shares on the New Third Board. The offering would value the entertainment firm at Rmb5 billion, or over 200 times its valuation three years ago when Yang took control.

The meteoric increase in market value is hardly coincidental. Yang acquired the controlling stake in Jiaxing through an investment vehicle registered in Tibet with her two managers. Jiaxing cashes in on her star power to raise its profile in the entertainment industry. The company has produced hit shows that starred the actress such as Translator (see WiC330) and The Witness.

In addition to being the face of Jiaxing, Yang also helps recruit new artists to the production firm. It’s a win-win scenario. The up-and-comers gets to be involved in projects that are almost guaranteed to attract attention thanks to Yang’s reputation. And Jiaxing gets to build up its own roster of new stars.

In fact, half of the cast in Eternal Love are actors managed by Yang’s firm, and as their agency Jiaxing also collects commission from its artists on future jobs. This business model, says Lanzhou Morning Post, “costs little but has a big payoff”.

Take Dilraba. The 24-year-old starlet from Xinjiang has become a household name after appearing as the second lead in Eternal Love. Next, she will play the leading role in the series Pretty Li Hui Zhen – also produced by Jiaxing – which will be aired on Hunan Satellite TV.

Dilraba has also been selected to replace actress-model Angelababy in the hit reality TV series Running Man while the latter takes maternity leave.

“The ability to spot and nurture talent has given Jiaxing a competitive edge in the industry. It also shows that Yang Mi’s leadership ability is being recognised,” says Sohu, a portal.

The strategy has translated into big financial gains. According to its unaudited financial results for the past year, Jiaxing made over Rmb320 million in operating income, up 120% from a year ago. Net profit, too, is expected to reach Rmb120 million, up 46%, says Securities Daily.

Nevertheless, analysts have questioned whether these financial results merit such lofty valuations. The company is nonchalant on this issue: “At Rmb5 billion the valuation is not unrealistically high. In fact, we believe it is very reasonable,” says a spokesperson, adding that cash from the latest funding round will go into TV and film production.

Yang’s success in the capital market is now the envy of her peers. Fan Bingbing, who was going to sell her production firm to Talent Media for up to Rmb1.3 billion (see WiC322), saw the deal unravel after the Shenzhen securities regulator demanded that Talent re-evaluate the price because the valuation was unreasonable.

Similarly, actress Liu Shishi, who sold her stake in a TV production company to Baofeng Technology in a share swap, saw her fortune tank after shares in the internet firm fell by half within two months of the deal closing. National Business Daily reckoned that she had a paper loss of as much as Rmb154 million.

“Fan Bingbing and Liu Shishi’s stories show that making a quick buck in the stock market could sometimes be met with a tragic ending. However, what sets Yang apart is that she really is one of the hardest working actresses in the industry. Through her sharp investment and business acumen and strong work ethic, she managed to be the one who saved the industry’s face in the financial markets,” says Sohu.

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