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People’s Daily: Chinese TV Series “Go Abroad Collectively”

2018-06-25 10:21

       A few years ago, speaking of Chinese film  and television program “going global”, it is most commonly thought that President Xi Jinping visited foreign countries with TV series “Beautiful Daughter-in-Law”, “To Elderly With Love” and “Beijing Youth” as a national gift. These TV series have been broadcast in China for many years, Among the current TV series, what new works have gone abroad and have been welcomed by overseas audiences?

        Recently, the 15th China International Film & TV Program Exhibition guided by State Administration of Radio and Television and hosted by Central Radio and Television Station was held in Beijing. While highlighting the results of international co-production, the exhibition emphasized the role of the “Film and TV Import & Export Association”. “Going abroad collectively” has become an important initiative for Chinese TV series to enter international market.


Building the Brand  Effect of Chinese Film and TV Series

Last year, TV series such as "Nivana in Fire” and “Ode to Joy” produced by Dongyang Midday Sunshine Film & Television Co., Ltd achieved very good results in overseas distribution after completing domestic broadcast. Among them, the video view of “Nirvana in Fire” on an overseas video website reached 154 million, and the video view of “Ode to Joy” exceeded 200 million. Hou Hongliang, Chairman of Midday Sunshine, said that, on the one hand, such achievement benefited from the improvement of the quality of domestic film and TV series in recent years, and on the other hand, highlighted the role of the “Film and TV Import & Export Association” as the link and bridge.

The "Film and TV Import & Export Association” is an industry organization initiated by China International Television Corporation in November 2017. Since its establishment, the association has successively organized the International TV Series Exchange Forum in Cannes, France and Portugal. It also plans to organize its members to jointly participate in domestic and foreign film and television festivals, and send excellent works to major festivals to participate in award evaluation.

Professional visitors say that, in the new era, China is presenting itself to the world in a more open and confident manner and Chinese film and television industry is embarking on a larger international arena.

"In the process of globalization, Chinese film and television should spread Chinese culture to the greatest extent. In addition to seeking its own position in the global film market and respecting the nature of cultural communication and the laws of the market, the most important thing is to make joint efforts, seek the symbiosis of local culture and world market, let entities with different advantages form a joint force, create a global platform for overseas sales, and constantly adjust the direction of communication. It can be said that the birth of the association is just at the right time.” said Shen Jianing, Assistant President of China International Television Corporation.

It is understood that the “Film and TV Import & Export Association” has attracted more than 50 film and television enterprises and organizations, and has increasingly become an important means for Chinese film and television culture to “go global” in the new era. According to Hou Hongliang, with the efforts of the association, the copyright of TV series such as “Nirvana in Fire” and “The Disguiser” has been bought by Korean broadcasting agencies. “This shows that China’s film and television culture is gaining more and more recognition. Chinese TV series have had a certain influence and brand effect in neighboring countries.” Hou Hongliang said. 


Xu Zewei, Chairman of Jiyangwenhua Media Co., Ltd, believes that a series of “combination blow” will promote the establishment of a strategic cooperation mechanism for the overseas dissemination of Chinese film and television series, and these actions have also released a clear signal: the overall development of Chinese film and television has made “in-depth cooperation” the only way for overseas dissemination, and the more open channels it has established may create the rigid demand for Chinese film and TV series in the future global market.  

Two Markets and Two Legs Walk

With the deepening of the spread of Chinese film and TV series in overseas markets, the demand of overseas audiences for the themes and types of Chinese film and TV series is also changing.

It is understood that in recent years, compared with previous years, the “export” volume of realistic themes in Chinese film and TV series has gone up significantly. “Last year, TV series with realistic themes such as “Gentlemen” and “Stay with Me” were well received after being broadcast abroad. In particular, the realistic TV series “Inspiration for Life” won the top ratings for several consecutive days when it was broadcast in Mongolia.” Shen Jianing said. 


Many professional visitors said that, in the past two years, when participating in overseas film festivals, the organizations and audiences from Africa, Europe and the United States that inquire about Chinese realistic TV series have been increasing year after year. Experts believe that TV series with realistic themes are a window for foreigners to understand contemporary China. The rising popularity of realistic TV series overseas reflects the increasing attention of international community to China.

At the same time, Chinese costume dramas that have long been favored by the Asian market still enjoy high attention. The “Nirvana in Fire”, “Princess Agents” and “Military Alliance” all sparked heated discussions among overseas audiences. “Realistic TV series have certain knowledge threshold for the audience and the audience must have a certain understanding of the background of contemporary Chinese society in order to fully understand the emotional logic of the characters. However, some costume dramas do not require much knowledge of the audience. Especially for Asian audiences, the eastern cultural background is inherently interconnected.” said Du Zhike, Vice President of Television Broadcasts Limited.

It is worth noting that it is used to be difficult for costume dramas to enter the Latin American market and it has undergone new changes in 2018. The Spanish versions of the costume dramas “Nirvana in Fire” and “Princess Agents” will be broadcast in Latin America one after another. According to Xu Zewei, this means a new breakthrough in overseas commercial distribution of Chinese TV series.      



It is understood that in recent years, compared with previous years, the “export” volume of realistic themes in Chinese film and TV series has gone up significantly. “Last year, TV series with realistic themes such as “Gentlemen” and “Stay with Me” were well received after being broadcast abroad. In particular, the realistic TV series “Inspiration for Life” won the top ratings for several consecutive days when it was broadcast in Mongolia.” Shen Jianing said. In the past, the domestic market is keener on realistic themes and the overseas market is keener on costume themes. However, in recent years, the performance of the two themes in both domestic and overseas markets has been improved simultaneously. Ma Zhongjun, Chairman of Ciwen Media Co., Ltd, said: “Focusing on both domestic and overseas markets and insisting on walking on two legs is inherent in the development of Chinese TV series. However, this does not mean that realistic dramas are only for the domestic market and costume dramas are only for overseas markets. Both at home and abroad, audiences all over the world like those excellent TV series that promote the true, the good and the beautiful, express the common feelings of human beings and are perfect in workmanship. This is what the TV market has taught us in the past two years.   

Present a vibrant contemporary China 

When overseas audiences watch Chinese TV series, besides the direction of the story and the growth of the characters, what are they still paying attention to? In fact, it has become increasingly clear that today's overseas audiences are increasingly eager to deepen their understanding of the current Chinese society through Chinese film and TV series, just as Chinese people learned about the lifestyle and thinking model of westerners from western film and TV series in the early days of the reform and opening-up. 

“With the improvement of China's comprehensive national strength and international status, the world has increasingly turned its attention to China, which provides a golden opportunity for Chinese film and TV series to go abroad. What has happened in China, a land of brilliant civilization? What kind of development achievements have China made in the past 40 years of reform and opening-up? What kind of happiness and sorrow do Chinese people have in their daily life? This is what overseas audiences want to know when they watch Chinese TV series.” Shen Jianing said.

Of course, due to the cultural differences between different countries and regions, overseas audiences are constantly adjusting their understanding of Chinese society and cultural imagination in the process of watching Chinese TV series. How to present China's national image more accurately and abundantly in the process of export of film and TV series has also brought challenges to the export work of film and TV series.

Shen Jianing said that higher program production standards and richer themes and types are the homework that must be completed for the going-global of Chinese film and TV programs. “The Chinese film and TV programs we distribute overseas have already included various types and themes and should be even richer in the future. We will not only show China’s historical and cultural traditions to overseas audiences, but also show them the development vitality of contemporary Chinese society. More importantly, both costume dramas and modern dramas should strive to show the Chinese people's safeguard and protection of peace, unity and prosperity, as well as the attention and belonging for love, kinship and friendship. The TV series have to convey correct values and transmit positive energy to overseas audiences.”

With the changes in the international market situation and the development of new technologies, the overseas distribution methods of Chinese TV series have become increasingly diversified. While maintaining and developing traditional TV series distribution channels, many enterprises are also vigorously expanding new media distribution. China International Television Corporation has set up localization periods and channels for Chinese TV programs in Indonesia, Cambodia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Myanmar, Serbia, the United Arab Emirates and other countries, and has established a special area for Chinese TV programs on some overseas new media platforms.

It is particularly worth mentioning that Chinese film and television enterprises have a more active and positive attitude towards "going global". In the past, once a TV series or a program were sold to overseas markets, in a sense, its mission was completed. Nowadays, after a program is sold, the feedback from overseas audiences is increasingly valued by domestic film and TV program producers. Some producers will consider using actors accepted and loved by overseas audiences to participate in the shooting of TV series and programs, or purchase the copyright of programs that have been successfully broadcast overseas to conduct localization reform in China. “These changes will definitely affect the creation and expression of domestic TV series and give birth to Chinese TV series that are understood and loved by international audiences.” Shen Jianing said. (Source: People's Daily, June 14, 17th edition, reporter Liu Yang)