Shanghai Media Group is getting in on the TV game. Starting with “Celebrity Explorers,” the company, a MipTv Veteran, hopes to become a seller of TV content originally made for the Internet.
The documentary series is co-produced by SMG’s New Media Business Unit and non-governmental organization WildAid. Shot over a period of 18 months, it involves top Chinese celebrities, including pianist Lang Lang and actor Wu Xiubo, traveling the globe to report on the status of endangered animal species.
The series, which has 5 episodes to date, will be broadcast on SMG’s online channel, its mainstream TV channels and also licensed to foreign broadcasters. Going in to MipTV, SMG is already in talks with potential buyers.
In addition to “Celebrity Explorers, SMG is also selling two other shows “Wow New Home” and variety talent show “Lolita Garden.” Going into its second season, “Lolita Garden” is scheduled to air on Alibaba’s Youku.com and top Chinese satellite channels in the second quarter of 2017. SMG plans on inviting leading girl groups from across Asia to participate.
According to Lin Zhiqiang, head of the NMBU and an alumnus of SMG’s Dragon TV business, prioritizing web content allows the company to multiply its revenue streams. Producing its own shows cultivates a business-to-business model made up of advertising sales, rights licensing to other distributors and production fees. But now, SMG is able to also nourish a B2C model where audiences interact and pay via micropayment systems similar to those for online games and apps.
“Many other producers and production companies are now shifting to production for the Internet. But our NMBU is the first and the only company among China’s state-owned TV and radio media groups that puts such a focus on Internet-based content,” Lin told Variety. “And although Dragon TV has been to Mip before, this is the first for our kind of state-owned enterprise.”
The unit, which formed only last year, enjoyed first-year revenues of some $104 million (RMB720 million), giving it the confidence to expand.
“Currently there are four to five projects we are working on, and we expect they will earn the majority of their revenues from the B2B model,” Lin told Variety. “In 2017, we will launch eight Internet-based variety shows and also one more large-scale Internet-based drama.”
“Currently we are running a membership card model, where users could buy membership cards that allow them to be part of interaction. But for the future we are exploring more in-depth interaction, where users might be charged on their engagement level,” he said. “Their payments could actually decide how the story goes. Take the example of a show where the main actor and actress meet for a dinner date: Audiences could decide if they continue their relationship or break up.”