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,
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.