Pippa Considine takes a look at UK and international shows that have been appealing to Chinese audiences ahead of the Factual Festival (BAFTA 11, 12 November) where Chinese state broadcaster Zhejiang Satellite TV will be represented by formats director Summer Zheng.

Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School is a BBC documentary that caught the zeitgeist in both the UK and China. The series saw five teachers from Chinese take over the education of fifty teenagers for four weeks in a Hampshire school to see whether the Chinese education system can teach the UK a lesson. 

Following its broadcast in August, Chinese social media went wild, sparking a debate about China’s own educational system. 

Summer Zheng is formats director at Zhejiang Satellite, the fourth biggest TV network in China. She points to the series as the sort of show that she could be interested in. She’s certainly interested in developing relationships with UK producers and broadcasters. “The UK’s creative industry is remarkable, TV, film, design, and so on, gather the best talent in the world,” says Zheng. “It would be brilliant to work with producers and broadcasters in the UK.” 

Based in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, Zhejiang Satellite TV is a government run station that has had a number of hits with imported formats, especially The Voice of China which has been a huge success for the network. 

Last week’s Sino-British creative forum in London saw Chinese broadcasters build on the successful relationship between Lion Television and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, which resulted in the direct commission of 90-minute documentary Confucius.

Chinese broadcasters are still keen on formats, but these include factual entertainment hits, with Renegade’s Don’t Tell the Bride recently selling to Shenzen Media Group and Studio Lambert’s Gogglebox in a deal with production group Zhejiang Huace Film & TV Group to make a 12-part local version. These follow Chinese treatments for Top Gear, Supernanny, Secret Millionaire and Dragon’s Den. There are also plans for a new Bear Grylls fronted celebrity survival show from Betty, while CCTV issued a co-production brief in June, looking for city-themed factual programming.

Last week also saw the announcement of a deal between Chinese producer and broker IPCN and STV Productions for a format inspired by Celebrity Antiques Roadshow.

As well as The Voice, Zhejiang has had success with Celebrity Splash, The Choice and 101 Ways To Leave A Game Show. The blockbuster shows have also raised production standards and qualities, “bringing a new era of aesthetics to our audience” says Zheng.

Zhejiang’s own format I’m Not a Star Yet, where the children of celebrities compete, has been a seven season hit. Zhejiang is now selling it in other territories. 

The broadcaster is still keen on finding formats based on celebrity and competition, but also reality shows and possibly documentaries that can get social media buzzing.

Summer Zheng will be appearing on the International Hotspots panel on the first day of the Factual Festival and will be available for meetings with delegates at lunchtime on the same day.

To find out more and to buy tickets, go to the Festival website – www.televisual.com/festival

Pippa Considine

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