CHINA GOES TO HOL­LY­WOOD

An of­fi­cial vis­it­ing L.A. says the gov­ern­ment wants to make TV co-pro­duc­tions with the likes of Netlix and HBO,

Toronto Star - - BUSINESS - RYAN FAUGHNDER

LOS AN­GE­LES— Global stream­ing gi­ant Net­flix hasn’t been able to launch its ser­vice in China and U.S. TV studios have had a hard time crack­ing the mas­sive Chi­nese tele­vi­sion mar­ket.

But a Chi­nese gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial vis­it­ing Hol­ly­wood said his coun­try wants to make co-pro­duc­tions with the likes of Net­flix and HBO.

Col­lab­o­ra­tions be­tween Hol­ly­wood and China have largely been con­fined to fea­ture films. But that could be about to change. Yang Zheng of China’s State Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Ra­dio, Film and Tele­vi­sion (SARFT) said he had met with rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Net­flix, HBO, Warner Bros. and the Pro­duc­ers Guild of Amer­ica to dis­cuss the idea of team­ing up on TV shows. The gov­ern­ment agency su­per­vises state-owned out­lets and cen­sors con­tent in me­dia.

HBO has al­ready dipped its toe in the water. Its HBO Asia arm and China Movie Chan­nel re­cently signed a deal to work on TV movies to­gether, start­ing with a pair of kungfu films.

In an in­ter­view on the Paramount Pictures stu­dio lot in Los An­ge­les, Yang told the Los An­ge­les Times that shows de­vel­oped, pro­duced and fi­nanced with U.S. pro­duc­ers could help ex­pand the Chi­nese TV in­dus­try’s al­ready ex­pan­sive reach.

“The TV in­dus­try has been de­vel­op­ing re­ally fast in China,” Yang, deputy di­rec­tor of SARFT’s TV drama department, said through a trans­la­tor. “It has to ex­pand after it’s been de­vel­op­ing in China after sev­eral years. From the cul­tural per­spec­tive, we ad­mire Amer­ica’s mul­ti­cul­tural world. It’s go­ing to be lonely and less colour­ful if there’s only one cul­ture. . .We have to com­mu­ni­cate with other cul­tures.”

But tran­spa­cific TV col­lab­o­ra­tions could be dif­fi­cult for com­pa­nies such as Net­flix, given that the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment has been re­stric­tive about what Amer­i­can con­tent its pop­u­la­tion can see through broad­casts and on­line.

U.S. shows, such as Fox’s Em­pire, were pulled from Chi­nese video stream­ing ser­vices two years ago, and on­line por­tals owned by Dis­ney and Ap­ple were shut down this spring.

Net­flix, which has more than 80 mil­lion sub­scribers glob­ally, said last month it has aban­doned its im­me­di­ate ef­forts to ex­pand into China be­cause of the coun­try’s re­luc­tance to al­low for­eign dig­i­tal stream­ing ser­vices.

In­ter­net video por­tals have been told to limit for­eign films and TV shows to 30 per cent of their line­ups. And of­fi­cials are dis­cour­ag­ing broad­cast­ers from adapt­ing for­eign pro­grams such as The Voice for Chi­nese au­di­ences.

None­the­less, Yang said the meet­ings, which he said took place over the last sev­eral days, were pre­lim­i­nary and only the start of China’s co-pro­duc­tion ef­forts in tele­vi­sion.

De­spite the ob­sta­cles, Yang em­pha­sized that TV co-pro­duc­tions could be­come a real business in China. “We have com­mon goals,” Yang said.

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