Asian Side of the Doc: How to work with CCTV9

As the fifth edition of Asian Side of the Doc winds down, and in anticipation of the upcoming online launch of realscreen's global pitch guide Radarscreen, CCTV9's MD Liu Wen (pictured) outlines the commissioning needs of the Chinese doc channel.
March 20, 2014

As the fifth edition of Asian Side of the Doc winds down, and in anticipation of the upcoming online launch of realscreen‘s global pitch guide, Radarscreen, we take a look at the commissioning needs of Chinese documentary channel CCTV9.

Radarscreen, launching in spring, will spotlight commissioners from channels around the globe, and in partnership with Asian Side of the Doc, will feature several Asian non-fiction content commissioners.

Background: CCTV9 is the only dedicated documentary channel in China. The domestic version broadcasts in Chinese, while the international version broadcasts in English. Both broadcast 24 hours daily.

The channel has also established a “Chinese Documentary Union,” consisting of more than 100 TV stations, 150 production companies and more than 1,000 independent producers. Liu Wen, managing director of CCTV9 (pictured), says the move was undertaken to “use our influence to expand the TV audience for documentaries, attract more talent for the documentary industry, promote the formation of industry standards, speed up development of the market for documentaries and expand the channel’s international market share.

“We allow a large budget for international co-productions, and the topics we’re interested in are not limited to China-focused ones, but also those with global interests,” adds Wen. “We have also hired professional teams of special photography, special effects and music production to join our in-house productions.”

Slots: In addition to what airs on CCTV9, the channel also manages a slot called Fascinating Documentary, which airs on CCTV1 every evening.

For CCTV9, the domestic, Chinese language version broadcasts six hours of new programming daily from 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Docs are shown in the following eight time slots, with descriptions from CCTV9:

HUMAN INTEREST (5:30-6:00 p.m.): Stories with strong regional character selected from the best stories from TV stations around the country.

NATURE (6:00-7:00 p.m.): Covering nature-related topics that provide a moving and colorful view of the magnificence of nature.

SOCIETY AND PEOPLE (7:00-8:00 p.m.): Featuring documentaries which explore the mysteries of the diverse array of cultures and history in the world from a variety of human perspectives.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS (8:00-9:00 p.m.): Showing the finest original Chinese documentaries.

GLOBAL OUTLOOK (9:00-10:00 p.m.): A selection of documentaries from around the world.

CONTEMPORARY LIFE (10:00-10:30 p.m.): Covering dynamic and interesting phenomena in social and economic life in contemporary China.

HIDDEN TRUTH (10:30-11:00 p.m.): Hidden truth behind accounts in historical archives and contemporary events are revealed.

DISCOVERY (11:00-11:30 p.m.): Documentaries on history and culture open dusty historical files to give viewers an appreciation of the essence of culture and tradition.

DOCUDRAMA (10:00-11:30 p.m. Sunday): A selection of documentary films.

“The international version of CCTV9 presents four hours of new programming every day,” says Wen. “It covers wide genres including natural history, modern society, cultural, humanitarian and various aspects of China. It aims at unveiling the unique culture and social development of China through a multi-dimensional and comprehensive perspective.”

Target Demos: Wen says recent surveys have shown that the channel is most popular among middle and upper income adults, and that both a growing number of youth and highly educated people with higher levels of income are watching the channel. “Also, the surveys show that the proportion of highly educated people watching CCTV9 is highest among all CCTV channels,” Wen adds.

Primary contacts:
Tian Yuan: head of international acquisitions and coproduction
Zhang Yiqian: project manager, international acquisitions and coproduction

What are they looking for: High quality non-fiction programs in different genres including natural history, science, wildlife, history, culture, modern society and current affairs. CCTV9 needs both one-offs and series, with a preferred length of 50 minutes. “We’re also looking for coproduction projects to work with potential partners,” says Wen.

Rights sought: TV rights + VOD rights, for Mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan


How to pitch: “When you have a project to pitch the channel, it’s better come to us with a one-page proposal with synopsis, rough ideas of the storyline, the total budget and proposed ways of cooperation editorially and financially,” says Wen.

Pitching dos and don’ts: “We’re more convinced by high quality, authentic non-fiction with great story-telling, without presenters, shot in HD, both informative and entertaining.”

Look for more news on Radarscreen’s upcoming launch, coming soon.

About The Author