To Qingdao, China for the latest in UKTI’s series of “Technology Innovators Forum” events (TIF-In). Organised jointly with Future TV and Champion Media in China, over two days the programme brought together major corporates and emerging innovations across the media landscape – with a particular focus on new digital platforms and models (See http://tif-in.com/ for full details).
Qingdao is a coastal city and was the site for the 2008 Olympic sailing events. It is clearly planning to establish itself as a significant creative hub, away from Shanghai and Beijing, and a visit to the site of Wanda’s planned $8Bn Oriental Movie Metropolis was a reminder of the speed and scale of Chinese ambition. In fact any journey within Qingdao passed residential skyscrapers under construction every 500 metres interspersed with building sites for the new metro system – a quite staggering volume of construction.
Conversations at the event itself revealed some similarities, but more differences, when compared to an event I produced in China nearly four years ago. The explosion and then rapid consolidation of the new digital world has generated some highly interesting and aggressive IPTV businesses from Tencent and Future TV, to BesTV, LeTV and IQIYI. In addition digital platform businesses are now reversing into the TV and content space, for example smartphone superstars Xaomi or dominant social app WeChat.
This expansion of platforms has driven a new opportunity for external content producers and distributors, and there was a strong sense of a market hungry to engage in partnerships which were less skills driven and more about content development.
IP issues are still a slightly thorny subject but an addition to the “piracy = flattery” line which was the standard previous response is an increasingly strong legal framework of protection. In truth this is more likely driven by the emergence of significant Chinese IP businesses than any external influence – but with the consequence of an improving position for all.
Two enduring similarities:
- the Chinese market is all but inaccessible unless a UK business forms a strong commercial relationship with a Chinese partner, and indeed the centerpiece of the TIFIn Qingdao event was the formalisation the GDMEA alliance to provide a political framework within which UK and Chinese media businesses can productively engage;
- the second similarity was just the sheer weight of numbers. The size of the market is enormous and where the UK businesses did start to talk finance they found investment availability at a very different scale to home.
Perhaps emblematic of the new commercial creative opportunities between UK and China was a young British singer called Mary-Jess who performed at the inevitable bizarre awards ceremony – she was the recent winner of China’s Got Talent singing (beautifully) Chinese folk songs in Mandarin.