2017-06-18 17:48:29[UPDATES]

Quest for TV series quality under pressure in hungry market

 

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□By Liza Li(Shanghai Daily)

The concept of quality versus quantity in the booming Chinese television market of budget TV and web series was a hot issue at the ongoing 23rd Shanghai TV Festival yesterday.

Experts in the Chinese TV series industry shared insights on how to balance investment, quality and popularity in the new entertainment environment in which many productions are adapted from hot literary properties.

They were talking at a market event focused on making high quality TV series in China hosted by new entertainment media alliance Pengxiaoxian launched by Best Media.

Cao Yongshou, CEO of iMiner, explained that from a big data perspective, the success of a series takes three factors into account: market performance (ratings and views), buzz volume (media coverage and social media), and quality index (grading of the production team and public reputation).

In the past few years, he said, the number of IP series has increased dramatically. In 2015, 47 percent of series were developed from IPs, rising to 65 percent in 2016. It continued to grow in 2017 to about 70 percent.

“But the IP series seldom get into the list of most popular,” he noted.

In the second half of 2017, iMiner predicts there will be more urban drama series, though their ratings and buzz volume may not be as high as costume and fantasy dramas. There will be more series with female characters in leading roles and these will test the actresses performance skills.

“The audience's aesthetic standards will push back on content production, making high quality series the only way out,” Cao said.

Renowned TV series director Li Lu emphasized that a TV series’ high quality is decided after it stands the test of time and, due to their unpredictable nature, it is not possible to calculate the success of a TV series with formulas.

Zhang Wei, a producer currently working on “Martial Universe,” said that, from a production company’s perspective, everyone wants to create a high quality TV series.

But even though her current project was given three years to develop, much longer than the average production period of similar projects, she cannot guarantee that it will become a blockbuster series.

“Only when we return to the original state of the TV series itself, by making sure the script and creative teams can work everything out step by step in line with market principles, can we present very decent works to the public,” Zhang said.

There is a big market demand for high quality TV series, she said, because audiences who grow up watching American and Japanese TV series have higher standards. Producers must withstand the pressure and find a balance in revenue and quality.

“The most important thing is to perfectly integrate cost, market, revenue and cycle. If you can reach the highest in income and popularity, it’s a successful project,” Zhang said.

The phenomenon of high levels of investment in the Chinese television industry was also a growing concern, she added. Many TV series were developed with millions of yuan, because the limited amount of high quality resources and very large number of projects has greatly increased the cost.

Renowned screenwriter Li Xiao believes people can see where the money has been spent in a TV series production.

“Big stars make distribution and marketing smoother and spending money on production can present beautiful costumes and scenes," she said. "And having a good script would actually make things a lot easier, like inviting a suitable actor, than a big name IP or novel,” she said.

Li Xiao stressed that a good story can attract investors who trust the production team and this is more important than just having the big money.

In the past few years,the number of domestic IP series has increased dramatically.

“Martial Universe” stills.