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Q&A: Sy Lau, president of China's Tencent Online Media

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10 April 2014

China is becoming an increasingly important market for UK producers, with British formats and shows such as Sherlock, Gogglebox, Supernanny and Secret Millionaire all selling to the country.

And one of the big players in China is Tencent, one of the country's largest internet companies, which has struck deals with the likes of BBC Worldwide and ITV Studios to import shows for its service.

Here's a brief Q&A interview with Sy Lau, the president of Tencent Online Media Group, China, where he spells out why the company is a fan of British programming.

Tell us about Tencent? Tencent is the largest Internet company in Asia and the world’s fourth largest Internet company by market capitalisation. Tencent launched its online video service Tencent Video in 2011 and it is now the leading online video platform in China. For a 30 RMB membership fee per month (around £3), the audience gets exclusive access to certain popular Hollywood films as well as some other member rights.

What kind of British content is available? In June 2013, Tencent Video announced an agreement with six UK-based production houses including BBC Worldwide and launched its British Drama Channel. In 2013, 40 drama series were broadcast on the channel in total.

What is the most popular kind of content?
On the international content front, over 40% of Chinese Netizens voted Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Black Mirror and The IT Crowd as the most popular series that are available online. The new British Drama Channel has received more than 200m impressions in total since it was launched in June 2013.
 
Why is British drama proving popular? The top two reasons British drama has become so popular in China is that the content is so interesting and how elaborate the execution of those ideas is. According to analysts from EntGroup, mini-series like Black Mirror and Sherlock were viewed like mini-films rather than TV series, considering the different content in each episode; they were viewed as being great for people who are pushed for time. Merlin and Downton Abbey were viewed as combining British myths and traditional culture into great programming in a very natural way. The IT Crowd brought over British humour while Skins revealed some of the social challenges. These kinds of content and approach are not frequently seen in Chinese 
dramas. Learning English was also a big draw: 59.7% Netizens claimed this as a big motivation to watch British dramas.

Which UK producers does Tencent deal with? Tencent Video signed agreement with six production houses including BBC Worldwide, ITV Studios, Fremantle Media, All3Media International and Endemol to import British dramas in June 2013.

Are you looking to increase your business with UK producers? The user base for British drama within China is expected to reach 160m within the next 2-3 years. Tencent is always striving to introduce the finest premium content. We have introduced a variety of American TV series, and plan to introduce more British drama this year.


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