China was the subject of the two panels organized on first day of Sunny Side of The Doc, with a 40-strong Chinese delegation making the trip to La Rochelle this week.
Demand for documentaries is currently increasing, as more and more dedicated doc channels launch in China, the panelists explained. The move is a result of Chinese government policy that identified culture as a key development area over the next five years.
Chinese public documentary channel CCTV-9 said it was looking to forge further copro deals with international partners. “We are reaching coproduction agreements either on Chinese subjects, such as China’s Hidden Landscape with NGC and ITV, or global themes, such as Wonders of Life with the BBC,” said Xiaoqing Chen, CCTV-9′s director of program operations.
Chen added that around a third of CCTV-9′s schedule was filled by international docs. “We acquire 1,000 hours, including 300 from the UK, 200 from the U.S., and the remainder from France, Australia, Spain and South Korea.”
In addition to regional channels, new local documentary channels are popping up. Year-old channel Bejing TV broadcasts three and a half hours of original programming per day, and is looking to acquire 300 hours of HD docs, attending Sunny Side to explore possible international partnerships.
Elsewhere, Shuiqing Jing, head of the international department of producer-distributor CICC, said: “China is opening up, there is a strong willingness to work with international players.
“We are happy to welcome foreign companies willing to work on Chinese subjects, can help them get visa and facilitate work within China, and are also ready to invest,” he added, offering a recent panda wildlife documentary coproduced with ITV Studios France and France 2 as an example.
An exec from Paris-based ITV Studios France producer told realscreen after the session that the total amount contributed by the Chinese partners to the project amounted to about €120,000 [US$149,750], mostly in cash.
LIC, another company working with international partners, said it has five time slots on various channels, including three for international docs.
“We acquire up to 500 hours, along with some coproductions,” said Shihui Cheng, LIC’s editor-in-chief, adding: “We have been testing the entertainment side of factual with a cooking format, France Chef, from a small Belgium company. It worked well, and CCTV2 is commissioning another 10 episodes.”
The traditional license fee from broadcasters is still quite small in the country, she added, explaining: “We funded the show thanks to sponsorship from a kitchen utensil company.”
Elsewhere, Tian Hai, CEO of BJ Raremedia – a producer that syndicates programming to some 200 local TV documentary channels – said: “The documentary programming we are looking for has to be different from CCTV-9.
“We have a €1.5 million budget to acquire from international companies, plus another €1.5 million for possible copro investments. Chinese audiences are interested in topics ranging from the Second World War to important, well-known people such as the Iron Lady [Margaret Thatcher].”