Video on demand (VOD) companies are huge enterprise internationally. At current, Netflix alone boasts a global viewers of 130m. By 2022, it and different regional and worldwide subscription VOD companies alone are anticipated to web an viewers of 450m worldwide.
Given their reputation, one may count on China – which has the very best inhabitants on the planet – to contribute the very best variety of VOD shoppers to the worldwide business. Nevertheless, buying and selling with China is rarely easy because of the individuals’s republic’s varied guidelines geared toward proscribing international funding. In consequence, though China has the very best variety of VOD customers (estimated to achieve 527m by the tip of 2018) they primarily eat by the nation’s personal quickly growing business – the present prime three suppliers being iQiyi, Youku and Tencent respectively – moderately than platforms similar to Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Worldwide firms have tried to penetrate the Chinese language market however with little success to this point. Netflix has been engaged on China since 2016, however for now has settled for licensing a few of its hottest content material, similar to Stranger Issues and Black Mirror, to iQiyi. Different firms, together with arthouse cinema service MUBI have additionally made makes an attempt, however likewise have confronted difficulties.
This isn’t supposed to place any international exporters off the Chinese language market – as a result of, actually, VOD in China presents a golden alternative for the UK movie business.
Exporting movie content material to the Chinese language VOD market is just not solely essential economically, but additionally as a type of trendy cultural diplomacy. Whereas it’s nonetheless unlikely that international digital platforms will have the ability to enter the Chinese language market – not less than within the close to future – one speedy technique might be to export movie content material, as Netflix has executed. There may be already an urge for food for British TV content material in China and the BBC is a prime exporter. Programmes similar to Planet Earth, Blue Planet and Sherlock have proved highly regarded.
Understandably, many British firms could also be delay by the import quota that regulates the quantity of international movies coming into China annually. This quantity has elevated in recent times – 89 international movies had been imported for theatrical launch in 2017 – however given the quantity of non-Chinese language movies launched annually, it’s nonetheless a really aggressive market with principally Hollywood blockbusters getting by.
Nevertheless, Tencent’s VOD service alone, greater than 100 of the five hundred movies added to the service in 2017 had been international – properly over the entire import determine for theatrical launch throughout the identical yr. Evidently, VOD platforms may be extra versatile on the subject of international content material.
In the meanwhile, Hong Kong, the US, Europe, Korea and Japan are the most well-liked areas/classes for imported content material. As a result of small quantity of British movies obtainable on Chinese language VOD websites, the UK is at the moment grouped underneath “Europe”. Though this will appear a small sensible drawback, British Council in China in addition to the Division for Worldwide Commerce might doubtlessly intervene to make British movies extra seen.
Chinese language rankings
The shortage of a rankings system in China is one other distinctive benefit that might be exploited by UK movie makers. China continues to adapt a really obscure ethos in its exhibition regulation: so long as the movies are appropriate for all ages, stay respectful towards Chinese language tradition and the federal government, they’re fairly prone to move the examine.
Given this, most British movies at the moment categorized as 15 or under are perfect for exporting. To the Chinese language viewers, most British movies are much less ideologically aggressive than their Hollywood counterparts and are literally regarded as extra academic in lots of facets.
As well as, because of the ongoing US-China commerce warfare, Hollywood’s exports to China are anticipated to fall. By benefiting from these comparatively relaxed guidelines, British manufacturing firms might lease unique movie rights to Chinese language VOD suppliers – as seen lately in a deal between US firm FilmNation and iQiyi.
However British movie firms have to be cautious with their technique. The BFI tried to export its movie competition content material in 2016, however this deal signed with iQiyi has not essentially made the films common on the platform. This can be partially right down to the truth that the BFI didn’t put money into its personal advertising and marketing and promotion of the content material in China – one thing which potential companions should bear in mind.
China’s varied VOD platforms are always searching for new content material with the intention to compete with one another, so there’s a clear alternative right here. However no matter British manufacturing firms determine to do, clearly extra clear market intelligence and coverage analysis are essential to assist their negotiations. Whereas the UK’s VOD business requires enchancment in lots of areas, taking over a brand new international problem might doubtlessly contribute to the British movie business’s inner reform, its opening up and steady diversification on the identical time.
Hiu Man Chan doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that might profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.