While the world is obsessed with House of Cards, Walking Dead and The Big Bang Theory, Americans themselves are glued to Nirvana in Fire. And now African audiences can watch this Chinese blockbuster, which some say reaches Hollywood production standards and has been likened to a Chinese version of Game of Thrones. The 55-episode series, set in a fictional kingdom, weaves two storylines — one about a betrayed young general’s revenge, and the other about a prince’s fighting for the throne. It occupies peak evening viewing slots on several TV channels in China and enjoys record viewing figures and a sterling reputation among audiences.
Released in September, it was viewed more than 140-million times within one day of its debut, and this number increased by 1.6-billion within two weeks. Some cities have even tried to name their places of interest after locations from the series to attract attention. Now, thanks to DISCOP Africa, the premier expo on the African continent for buying and selling television content, it has been made available to African audiences.
As an important platform for pitching, development, financing and co- production of television and film content, this year’s DISCOP Africa event featured showcases by more than 1,700 production companies from nearly 90 countries. As China had the “country of honour” status for DISCOP Africa 2015, it boasted the largest country delegation, with no less than 20 media companies that promoted TV series, documentaries, cartoons and other entertaining programmes. At the event, six of these companies achieved agreements to collaborate with six African television companies, meaning that more Chinese television programmes will be dubbed into different African languages and made accessible to African audiences in the near future.
“The African market has always been an important market in our distribution network and efforts have been made to provide more Chinese TV programmes,” says Zhang Lin, Vice-President of CCTV Program Exchange Center. According to Zhang, their most successful programmes include action TV series and films, documentaries and cartoons. “African audiences are already familiar with kung-fu movies,” she adds.
Being the second-largest film market in the world, China’s total ticket sales reached the R65bn mark in 2014, which translates to 36% growth. The number of digital set-top box users was nearly 300-million, which translates to 70% of total households.
As Chinese Ambassador TianXuejun says: “Cooperation in the film and TV industry not only plays an important role in China-Africa people-to- people exchanges, but can also become a catalyst for China-Africa practical cooperation.
“We meet each other’s demands, enjoy competitive edges respectively and offer opportunities to each other. This cooperation, if sustained, surely has great potential and broader prospects for our peoples,” he says.
(The story was originally published on Business Day on December 2nd, 2015.)