Wide interest from abroad demonstrates maturity of domestic production industry
With the fantasy series Tribes and Empires: Story of Prophecy soon to be aired in South Korea, the United States and Canada, China will have a new hit to be fancied by foreign audiences.
The 75-episode television series, chronicling fights for a throne in a fictional dynasty, quickly attracted more than 100 million views four hours after its online release in China on Tuesday.
Distributors revealed more foreign markets, including Vietnam, Malaysia and Japan, have shown interest in broadcasting the series.
China's rapidly developing television industry has seen more genres welcomed by overseas markets. In the past, foreign buyers didn't have many choices and they mainly focused on documentaries and animated productions, but now they also are paying attention to Chinese historically themed dramas.
Yang Le, a longtime distributor, has observed these changes in the past decade. When she toured Cannes to promote Chinese television dramas in 2006, Yang was disappointed with her first visit to MIPCOM, the world's largest trade show for entertainment content held in the French city each October.
Only a few Chinese companies were there, and they struggled to hold the attention of prospective foreign buyers.
But Yang's recent trip to Cannes for this year's trade show, held from Oct 16 to 19, was a pleasant surprise.
More than 200 prospective foreign buyers visited her company's exhibition area, which featured imperial-style costumes and ornaments used by lead characters in three upcoming TV series - Zhao Ge, Story of Yanxi Palace and Untouchable Lovers.
Zhao Ge, named after an ancient dynasty's capital, is based on heroes and romances going back about 3,000 years; Story of Yanxi Palace is set in the reign of 18th century Emperor Qianlong and chronicles the rise of a royal maid to be the ruler's most-loved concubine; while Untouchable Lovers is about a fake princess who is dragged into controversy in fifth century China.
"The prospective customers were not just interested in the stories, but they were also drawn by the Chinese culture and history behind them," said Yang, now the chief executive of Dongyanghuanyu Film & Television Culture Co Ltd.
Besides the display of the props, a documentary on exquisite embroidery and ornament making was shown at the exhibition, attracting a lot of interest.
So far, more than 20 prospective customers - coming from countries including the United Arab Emirates, Poland and Pakistan - have shown interest in purchasing the distribution rights of Zhao Ge.
There are five queries for Story of Yanxi Palace. Separately, buyers from Malaysia and South Korea already have signed contracts for Zhao Ge.
With China becoming one of the world's largest television content producers, Yang's recent experience in Cannes is a snapshot of the growing influence of the Chinese television industry.
This year, more than 13,900 delegates and 4,800 buyers from over 110 countries attended MIPCOM to market programs and formats for international distribution. More than 100 Chinese companies and agencies comprising 400 delegates attended.
Statistics from the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television show that China so far has translated more than 1,600 domestic movies and television productions into 36 languages - including English, French, Russian, Spanish, Arabic and Portuguese - and they are being aired in more than 100 countries.
Last year, China's exports of TV series earned 510 million yuan (.2 million), accounting for 68 percent of the total earnings from exported television content, according to the administration.
Yang Zheng, deputy director of the administration's television regulation division, said Chinese television content has already earned a reputation around the world.