BBC has made further extension into the Chinese market. After previous Strategic Partnership agreement signed in October 2015, BBC Worldwide has recently signed a new deal with Mango TV. Henceforth, subscribers of Mango can have access to some documentary and preschool content from BBC, including Tigers About the House, Trust Me, I’m a Doctor, the Numtums etc.
Mango is the online video platform behind China’s second-most-watched TV channel Hunan TV. In addition to its iconic entertainment shows produced by Hunan, Mango also provides a wide range of video contents from home and abroad.
In the context of globalization, the essence of BBC and Mango’s collaboration is the trade of media content, which can be reused as well as recycled to constantly generate profit. For the sake of BBC, its extension into new markets may not only help to boost revenue in both short and long run, but also drive intangible benefit like reinforcing its cultural impact.
On the other hand, China has long been an attractive market for overseas corporations. Thanks to the popularity of Internet and improvement of broadband, the Chinese online video industry is growing surprisingly fast in last few years. Along with the technology is the rising demand for content of over 600 million Chinese netizens. Suppliers such as iQiyi, Youku Tudou, Sohu and Mango are all fighting fiercely for the exclusive content through purchasing copyrights and producing self-made programmes. That’s why BBC and Mango reached such consensus on content cooperation – a win-win situation where BBC can get more audience, while Mango can enrich its content.
How successful will it be?
Theoretically, BBC has a high chance to survive the Chinese market, because of high quality and lower cultural discount, especially for the documentary and preschool content signed at this time. From social perspective, although entertainment dominates most of the online environment, audience are actually learning and browsing more. Taking the typical documentary content as an example, it’s highly acclaimed by both experts and ordinary people despite of less entertaining elements, and inspiring a growing number of audience over time. Chinese netizens speak highly of those documentaries as well.
In terms of intercultural communication, cultural discount is lower in documentary and preschool programs. Documentaries are always seeking topics that every audience may concern about and have empathy more or less. Preschool contents usually presents much simple value as they are targeting children. Consequently, even if there exists inevitable cultural difference, the cultural discount is still far lower than TV dramas or talk shows.
Additionally, it’s worth to be mentioned that China’s regulation on media content could play both positive and negative role in this case. SARFT (China’s state administration of media containing press, publication, radio, film and television) constantly imposes strict regulation on importing overseas media products, regardless of content or format. In September 2014, it stated that for online video platforms, the annual quota of foreign program purchasing should be less than 30 percent of domestic ones. It was also implied that online media content would be censored due to varieties of reasons.
Hence, it could be considered good news because content from BBC is much safer to pass the censorship, compared with other popular shows imported, containing porn or sensitive scenes. On the dark side, BBC bears the risk of government regulation all the time, as China provides a market of less freedom or fair competition. Taking all the facts into consideration, it’s more than difficult for BBC to reach a large audience in spite of high quality of content. The revenue they actually generate through Chinese market is perhaps less than expected, but at least it is an effective way to propagate country image and exhibit cultural power.
Worry about culture homogenization?
Regarding to the essence of globalization, criticism towards culture imperialism or homogenization is quite common. Particularly for the preschool content, it is much easier to shape a child’s value and behavior at an early age, which may arouse worries from educators. From the government point of view, China hopes to enhance its culture force, which means to export rather than absorb too much of foreign culture. That’s part of why they exert so many tricky regulations on imported products.
Nevertheless, the control of content isn’t what consumers what, and does no good to culture diversification. Consumers are willing to access sophisticated content accommodating to their interest. Different thought or values conveyed in those programs can broaden people’s mind and further experience culture from other nations. More significantly, difference makes comparison, by which domestic content producers will be stimulated to make some improvement and also innovation.
All in all, I appreciate a lot to the cultural values that BBC and Mango’s cooperation can bring to Chinese audience, but still suspicious to the revenues they can generate from the market. It’s time for China to become more open to excellent foreign media products, and the industry must bear in mind that there is always something of greater importance than money.
- Jeanne, L. (2016, Feb 22). BBC Worldwide signs new digital deal with Mango TV. BBC Media Centre. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/worldwide/2016/mango-tv-digital-deal