TVB is currently in discussion with Shanghai Media & Entertainment Group (SMEG) to form TVBC, a new joint venture to tackle the lucrative mainland Chinese market.
TVBC’s mission is to collaborate on marketing and advertisements, dramas, documentaries, and above all, support TVB artists in developing and planning their projects in mainland China. Virginia Lok (樂易玲) will handle the planning of the venture.
The Road to the Mainland Market
One step at a time, TVB has been methodically grabbing larger pieces of the lucrative mainland market. In the 1980s, classic Jin Yong (金庸) adaptations, Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils <天龍八部> and Return of the Condor Heroes <神鵰俠侶> were well received in China, which made TVB dramas a favorite among audiences.
With the Hong Kong handover in 1997, the cultures of mainland China and Hong Kong were set to merge at a quicker pace. Believing that a vast market was opening quickly, TVB began to actively seek ways into the Chinese market. The two satellite channels, TVB8 and TVB Xing He were the first steps in targeting the mainland market.
Around 2004, under an amendment in the Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement, TVB began collaborating with Chinese TV stations to produce shows for the mainland market. Dramas conceived from these collaborations included Sigh of His Highness <一生為奴> and Big Family <大宅門>. However, with its Shanghai partner failing to pay TVB the agreed royalty amounts, the collaboration ended with a lawsuit. Meanwhile, another project stemmed from a joint venture between TVB and China Central Television (CCTV) and resulted in the high-profile series, The Drive of Life <歲月風雲>.
Around the same time, Hunan TV was actively seeking to partner with TVB. War and Beauty <金枝欲孽>, was aired on Hunan TV during prime time, and was a major hit. TVB immediately proposed to work with Hunan TV on entertainment shows such as Strictly Come Dancing <舞動奇跡>, which an array of TVB and mainland artists competed for the best dancing couple award. The show was a big hit, and it lasted for three seasons. It gave TVB a venue to show off its artists to mainland viewers.
TVB has also been working with SMEG recently on variety shows including Chinese Big Variety <華人大綜藝>, a show that was broadcast simultaneously in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China. TVB also received broadcasting rights to mainland reality shows such as China Got Talent <中國達人秀> and The Return of the King <王者歸來>.
TVB Artists Head North
In the early 1990s, sensing a growing market, several TVB artists decided to take their chance with the mainland market. Adam Cheng (鄭少秋) was one of the first TVB artists to test the water, appearing in Chronicles of Emperor Qianlong <戲說乾隆>, and of course, mainland viewers loved Adam. After that, Damian Lau (劉松仁), Ray Lui (呂良偉), Benny Chan (陳浩明), and Dicky Cheung (張衛健) consistently appeared in mainland dramas.
Many TVB artists not only enjoyed fame and fortune, they also found the loves of their lives as well and now call China their homes. Ada Choi (蔡少芬) is one that comes to mind. Still working for TVB once in a while, Ada has become extremely popular in China. While his career in China has not been smooth sailing, Gallen Lo (羅嘉良) met and settled with his current wife, Sophie Su (蘇岩), in Beijing.
TV King, Kevin Cheng (鄭嘉穎), is one of the most popular TVB artists in mainland, after appearing in Bu Bu Jing Xin <步步驚心>. Artists that headlining mainland series also include Charmaine Sheh (佘詩曼), Myolie Wu (胡杏兒), Bosco Wong (黃宗澤), Ron Ng (吳卓羲), and Raymond Lam (林峰). Kenneth Ma (馬國明) also expressed his desire to film TV dramas in China, although he had to decline offers due to his busy TVB filming schedule.
However, not all stories were rosy. Many series from mainland TV were so mediocre that they failed to help promote the artist’s popularity at all. For example, Bobby Au Yeung (歐陽震華) is still waiting for his break in China. Many in China only remember Gallen Lo as TVB’s Best Actor and his Hong Kong series such as Cold Blood Warm Heart <天地男兒>, Secret Of The Heart <天地豪情>, and At the Threshold of An Era <創世紀>.
When TVB artists headed north to work in China, many thought they were doing it due to internal politics, or because they were abused and underpaid, or because they were not given the chances they deserved. Virginia Lok said none of this is true, as TVB normally takes care of any contract issues and filming schedules.
“We have big plans for China. I am hoping more of our artists will look into projects in China because the market is a lot bigger. Since there are different scripts and casts, they may improve their acting skills,” Virginia Lok said.
The new joint venture, TVBC, will help artists select mainland series or movie projects and the right companies to work with. Since there are also a prevalent number of unethical production companies in China, the formation of TVBC will assist TVB artists in pre-screening companies and minimize risks while filming in mainland.
This article is written by Lance for JayneStars.com.