China’s video sites have discovered a new menu item in their quest to feed the country’s growing hunger for foreign TV series.
While brash American shows and delicate Korean soaps still dominate the table, an increasing number of discerning consumers are electing for the sophisticated charm of British dramas like Baker Street reboot “Sherlock” and Edwardian nostalgia fest “Downton Abbey.”
Comparing levels of discussion on different social media sites, a recent study from entertainment research company Entgroup (in Chinese) found that British dramas were catching on among China’s wealthy and well-educated youth. While virtually unknown on the Chinese Internet a few years ago, British dramas now account for more than 9% of foreign TV discussion across Chinese social media sites, compared to around 28% for Korean soap operas, according to the study.
On websites that cater more exclusively to white collar workers and college students, the number for British shows jumps to more than 13%, versus less than 1% for Korean soaps, according to the Entgroup report, which found that more than half of those who followed British dramas held at least a bachelor’s degree.
That puts British shows at the top an increasingly snobbish pop-cultural hierarchy in China — described by local media as the “disdain chain.” (鄙视链 in Chinese) – in which British drama fans look down on fans of American shows, who themselves look down on Korean soap fans, who in turn look down on fans of domestic dramas.
Hit British dramas like “Dowtown Abbey” have been widely embraced by Chinese audiences, both through the country’s state broadcaster and pirated videos online, and are expected to have 160 million online followers in China in the next two to three years, according to Entgroup.
Chinese video sites have noticed the trend: After Sohu.com Inc. launched the first dedicated British drama channel in China last year, Youku Tudou Inc. followed in April and Tencent Holdings in June.
中国的视频网站已经注意到这种趋势，在搜狐(Sohu.com Inc.)去年推出首个英剧频道后，优酷土豆集团(Youku Tudou Inc.)和腾讯控股(Tencent Holdings Ltd.)分别在今年4月份和6月份跟进。
Tencent and Youku Tudou Inc. are vying with each other to sign exclusive deals with the likes of BBC Worldwide and Fremantle Media to stream the shows. Currently, Tencent has the exclusive rights to 13 shows with a total of 500 episodes. Youku Tudou Inc is licensed to stream 32 shows and 200 episodes, with exclusive rights to nine new titles and as well as hit shows “Sherlock,” “Downton Abbey” and “Black Mirror,” according to company statement.
腾讯和优酷土豆争相与英国广播公司商业分支有限公司(BBC Worldwide)和Fremantle Media等签订独家协议，以获得后者所制作电视剧的播放权。目前，腾讯获得了13部剧集、总计500集的独家播放权。优酷土豆的声明说，它获得了在中国播放32部剧集、总计200集的授权，其中包括九部新剧以及《神探夏洛克》、《唐顿庄园》和《黑镜》(Black Mirror)等热门剧集的独家播放权。
“The storylines in British dramas are more complete and British actors are A-listers in terms of acting skill,” said Zhu Xiangyang, chief content officer of Youku Tudou Inc. “The high quality of British dramas is what demanding audiences look for.”
Industry observers say British offerings provide a new tool to promote viewership. “The American drama resources have been exhausted, so the dividend is fading away,” said Ge Jia, a seasoned Internet analyst whose favorite dramas include “Yes Minister.” “Though the percentage of British drama fans in China is not overwhelming, the absolute number is big.”
行业观察人士说，英国电视节目为提高收视率提供了一个新的工具。经验丰富的互联网分析师葛甲说，美剧的资源已经被耗尽了，红利正在减少。他说，英剧的粉丝在中国电视观众中的占比虽然不是很高，但其绝对数量却很庞大。葛甲青睐 《是，大臣》(Yes Minister)等英剧。
Thanks to their audience, the shows also attract big-spending advertisers, according to video sites.
“Though British drama viewers are a minority, they are high-end and very loyal,” said Jean Shao, spokeswoman of Youku Tudou Inc.”This is what the advertisers fancy.”
“This is a great opportunity for a very time sensitive market,” said Jacqueline Sim, sales manager of Shine International, distribution arm of global production company Shine Group, which produced the Arthurian fantasy drama “Merlin” for the BBC.
全球性节目制作公司Shine Group旗下发行部门Shine International的销售经理Jacqueline Sim说，对一个时间敏感性非常强的市场而言，这是一个巨大机会。Shine Group为英国广播公司(BBC)制作了亚瑟王题材的奇幻剧集《梅林传奇》(Merlin)。
“Although there is still a gap between the appetite for American and British Dramas,” said Ms. Sim, whose company has cooperated with Youku Tudou Inc. since last year. “We are quite sure with the speed at which the country is growing, it will be catching up in no time.”