Shanghai Media Group, a leading Chinese communications corporation, sent a delegation of 15 young TV producers and directors to us to learn more about the creative process. Under our guidance they developed four potential programme formats. One proved to be a big weekend entertainment hit, generating enormous advertising revenue for SMG.

The challenge

In the past, programme development in China was haphazard: there was no system, no structure and no established process to develop an idea into a programme, much less maximise the success of a new format. Shanghai Media Group (SMG) had heard about UK producers and understood that development – turning an idea into a format – was an established practice in the UK. SMG wanted to learn the techniques to control and shape an idea to highlight its strengths, eliminate flaws and maximise the creativity of the team developing the idea.

They tasked the China Media Centre (CMC) with creating a mentoring course that offered both a strategic outlook and practical production techniques, but above all one that taught the members how to develop successful ideas.

Our response

Our CMC course used experienced UK television producer as mentors whose job was to guide the group’s development process. A key to success was finding the right mentor for each idea. CMC went to great lengths to ensure that each programme format was linked with a mentor with relevant expertise and appropriate skills. The course also included a series of lectures that provided strategic overviews (for example understanding audiences, using social media and scheduling), case studies (such as investigative news programmes, reality television, consumer-based shows and game shows) and lectures on technical aspects (such as lighting, sound, camera and production design). To round this off we visited a broadcaster, a studio complex, an independent production company and television facilities.

The delegation developed four ideas:

  • King of Comedy (笑傲江湖), a comedy version of X Factor, in which celebrity judges evaluate amateur performers from various backgrounds and crown one with the title 'King of Comedy'
  • Ladder to Heaven (天梯), a show based on the idea of an 'elevator pitch' – participants seeking investment have the time of an elevator ride to promote themselves or their products or services
  • Sweet Secret Dates (蜜密约会), a dating show similar to the British programme Blind Date
  • Top Dog (狗狗冲冲冲), a dog talent show in which dogs and their owners work together to win obstacle races to gain the title of 'Top Dog', testing the bond between dogs and their owners

What our client says

SMG is one of the largest media groups in China. Every year we send production personnel and senior management to CMC for training and working together has become a major aspect of our development strategy. The training courses include both forward-looking theory guidance and hands-on practical exercises from the workshop leaders, who are among some of the most skilled and most knowledgeable experts in their field. My colleagues who have attended the courses speak very highly of them. From last year, CMC and SMG have launched a joint R&D programme model, which resulted in two programmes broadcast at prime time on Dragon Television. Compared with other programmes, the audience rating is the second-highest in the country.

东方卫视总监李勇 (Li Yong, President, Dragon TV)

Business results

The creative course for SMG was a great success. The four ideas have been made into television pilots, which have since been broadcast on Dragon TV, the television broadcasting arm of SMG. Top Dog (狗狗冲冲冲) proved to be a big weekend entertainment hit, generating enormous advertising revenue for SMG. It is also considered a trailblazer, as this sort of show has never been done before on Chinese TV. Apart from commercial success, the producers and directors of SMG are now aware of the importance of establishing a professional system to encourage creativity and risk-taking.

Who was involved

More about the China Media Centre’s work

Chinese TV is going through a period of dramatic change, with the establishment of an independent production sector, a formal commissioning system and the development of in-house innovation teams. We have been instrumental in this change since 2006, through our professional development of TV personnel and our close collaboration with Chinese media organisations. In the last few years, we have trained around 50 SMG producers and directors, and helped them develop their original ideas into workable formats. We also provide training courses for Tianjin TV and Jiangsu TV. We are particularly pleased that some of our speakers have been invited to lecture in China and provide consultancy to our clients based on the trust built through our courses.

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