Star China International Media made a mark on Chinese television and in the formats industry by bringing big formats to China. Now, it’s aiming to export its own homegrown hits.
While international formats have been making a huge impact on Chinese television for the last few years, there hasn’t yet been a format created and developed in China that has become a global television entertainment fixture.
Vivian Yin (pictured above), deputy general manager and chief representative at Star China International Media and VP of production arm Starry Production, is hoping to change that with Sing My Song, a music competition series developed by Star China and now being shopped internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment (ITVS GE).
The deal, announced during MIPTV in April, follows the format’s performance on CCTV 3, with its debut season attracting 480 million viewers and a total audience share in China of 37%. According to ITVS GE, it also marks the first time that an original Chinese talent show format has been exported internationally.
“The landscape is changing very rapidly in China, and we think that if we want to be part of the international market, we should be involved in a different way, not only as buyers,” says Yin. “We should contribute to the market by bringing our own creativity to the fore and creating our own formats.”
Star China’s three channels cover the Chinese-speaking audience across Hong Kong, Macau and Southeast Asia. Following China Media Capital’s acquisition of a remaining 47% share from 20th Century Fox in 2011, the media group formed a production arm, Starry Production, which produces local versions of such global format phenomena as The Voice, Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance.
The emergence of those formats in China, and their massive popularity, has accelerated the importing of international entertainment formats into the region.
“The format industry in China is fairly new – we’ve been buyers for a couple of years, since Got Talent triggered the explosion of foreign formats,” explains Yin. “Beforehand, very few foreign formats had been introduced to China and localized, and in some cases not in an ideal way, where the ideas were borrowed and the format not respected.
“But since Got Talent, people have started respecting the value of foreign formats.”
Now, with Sing My Song being taken internationally, the question will be whether global audiences will embrace Chinese entertainment formats. Yin says the twist of the show – with the competition aspect focusing on the song as opposed to the singer – served it well in China, with original songs from the series becoming nationwide hits and providing additional revenue streams as well as increased buzz for the series.
“The original song is the pillar of the music industry. We had 12 singing shows on the air last summer in China, but they’re all singing cover songs. Nobody dared to take the risk,” she says. “We’ve kicked off the pre-auditions for The Voice of China,” she adds, “and some of the singers have come to those with songs from Sing My Song.”
- This feature first appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of realscreen magazine, which is out now. Not a subscriber? Click here for more information.