Over the last decade China’s film market has matured, to put it lightly. The country is now home to more than 55,000 cinema screens nationwide, with film production benchmarks growing ever higher. While the US industry was once thought to have a firm hold on the blockbuster archetype, the quality of Chinese films, as well as their cultural magnitude and audience reach, have led ticket sales to climb closer to the US & Canada in 2018. The market accounted for a total of US$7.9 billion in revenue in 2017 (against US$11.1 billion in the US & Canada), with Lunar New Year alone pulling in a record-setting US$852 million in sales.
Yes, American films themselves are still performing well, but it’s worth noting that big-budget US blockbusters are now opening to larger audiences in China than in their home country. What’s more, restrictions limiting the foreign films cap to 34 releases a year opens the door for much more market progress and creative input domestically. It’s no coincidence that the country’s identity shift from a factory of the world to an innovation hub has fallen parallel with the progression of its film industry.
If these strides in building its creative services industry are to continue, China’s marketing efforts need to follow suit—and no, clunky product placement isn’t the only way forward. Ashton Martin might have the James Bond franchise to forever thank, but promotion through association is key for today’s large-scale films. Stand-alone, bespoke films are also gaining traction. The APAC region’s success in Cannes Lions’ film category in 2018 put the regions propensity for long-form advertising content on display.
Transitioning from the big screen
Outside of the cinema, OTT has created an entirely new space for China’s film and TV market to grow, seeing healthy growth reaching US$2.4 billion. Bypassing traditional distribution, China’s move away from free-to-air video towards premium subscription services has been swift, and consumers seem to be on board. Close to 229 million people are expected to watch a video via a subscription-based streaming service by the close of 2018.
Remarkably, China now also accounts for a third of the global ad-funded video market. The opportunities are there for marketers, it’s just necessary to strike the right note with audiences, and whatever the case is for content, those seeking to penetrate the China market should choose their partners wisely.
Successful brands, agencies and media providers are taking note, and sometimes even overhauling their existing business model to fully tap into these trends. Case in point: FOX Networks Group Asia has transitioned from an entertainment mainstay to a diversified content provider, production house, and multi-armed marketer, all accented by their content marketing arm—Content Labs.
Earlier this year, FOX Networks Group Asia partnered with mm2 Entertainment to co-produce six Chinese language films, and joined forces with Endeavor China on a multi-year partnership aimed at developing and producing films—as well as TV series and short-form productions—catered to the Asian region. Just recently, the company partnered with Winday Pictures on the production of Memory Eclipse, a new series themed around the music of Taiwanese singer Teresa Teng that’s aimed primarily at the Greater China audience.
Kicking off the first day of MIPCOM Cannes, FOX acquired the rights to YouKu’s hit reality TV program Dunk of China and Huanyu Film’s The Legend of Hao Lan, paving the way for the syndication and/or localisation of the series for regional and global markets.
On the international front, FOX Movies is also behind a run of 25 Hollywood films that will be debuting on Asian TV over the next two months. FOX+ subscribers will have access to stream the full catalogue.
These are the building blocks for a long history in the China market, and with a growing appetite for video and a film industry that’s breaking global records, the sky seems to be the limit.