I thought Week 1 was a steep learning curve. In Week 2, I’ve been a flag bearer and competitor at the company sports day, recited a poem in Mandarin to a distinguished audience at a company event AND found an even steeper learning curve. The knowledge bank is filling up – and I’m having a fantastic time with my hosts at Wings Media.
Having started to familiarise myself with my surroundings, week 2 has provided ample opportunity to deep dive into the make-up of the Chinese entertainment industry. Wings and SMG have allowed many opportunities to enquire about various entry points to the industry - for which I am very grateful.
I'm starting to understand some of the frustrations with how China is perceived in the rest of the world. I have to admit that, before I arrived, I had heard a lot about China’s rapid ascendancy in the 21st century being built on imitating others’ ideas. In some industries, this has undoubtedly been the case, but from the conversations I’ve had this week, China wants to world to begin to see it as a nation of innovation.
This drive to change perceptions is most noticeable in the Chinese entertainment community. The key word that is on everyone’s lips here is INNOVATION – and SMG are at the forefront of this change.
To be clear - my counterparts here are very quick to highlight what, when and where they have gained a lot of knowledge and insight from distributing international content. That has encouraged them to consider what is possible in the future for entertainment in China through innovation. From what I’ve experienced in my short time in Shanghai, China is definitely in a new phase of original entertainment production. There has been a definite shift in behaviour.
China is in a hurry to create new entertainment formats in order to cater for the varying audience requirements across the 1.4 billion population, which is spread across the 34 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions that make up the country.
Innovation is also key to engaging the ever-expanding and demanding, digital native, youth audience here that is growing up more connected (and wealthier) than any previous generation.
The progress of the Chinese entertainment market was laid out for me in 3 stages:
Stage 1 (Past)
- Taking an international format and distributing nationally.
- Initial spike of interest was due to something new/foreign on the airwaves.
Step 2 (Present) - Where Wings Media consider the industry to be now:
- Taking the best elements of international formats and tailoring to suit the diverse needs of China’s expanding audience.
- With the important addition of innovation – producing bespoke and better tuned (culturally relevant) entertainment products based on an already existing international show/format.
Step 3 (future) This is a long-term goal:
- Moving towards totally originated content and shows being created in China.
- The corporate leaders are very keen to reverse large scale importing of entertainment, and becoming a net exporter of entertainment to international markets.
- A challenge China faces on its way to achieving this goal, is the need for production talent to develop here in China; Script writers, production designers, set dressers, camera crew, editors etc.
- This will elevate the perceived quality of the content produced and make China a viable exporter.
I feel they are at the start of their journey to achieving this goal, as Chinese historical dramas have started to be distributed and aired on the US television the past year. Episodes have been split to make for a longer series, to better suit the US audience.
I was honoured to be invited to the Oriental Pearl Group sports day last Saturday. I was invited to be flag bearer and then took part in various team assault course challenges.
On Thursday I took part in a Wings Media talent showcase - in front of a packed room. I went on stage to recite a famous and historic Chinese poem in Mandarin. There is video evidence of how well (or not) I achieved this task. But that’s best kept under lock and key for the time being!
I must say a huge thank you to Mr Teng for coaching me on how to recite the poem in just a few days.
One more week
Sadly, I have only one more week in Shanghai. I am hoping to pack in as much as possible as I feel I have only scratched the surface on the entertainment market in China – and their ambitions for growth.
I've only been here two weeks, but I already know I would relish the opportunity to return to China as soon as possible.