CCTV goes for Hong Kong 'Drive'

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HONG KONG -- "The Drive of Life," the first television drama co-produced by Hong Kong's TVB and mainland flagship broadcaster China Central Television, was unveiled Tuesday on the sidelines of the Hong Kong Entertainment Expo.

Executives pointed to the 60-episode series, which centers on the development of the Chinese automotive industry, as the beginning of a new wave of Hong Kong/mainland China television cooperation.

"This is just the beginning of our dream of increased cooperation with Hong Kong," said Ma Runsheng, assistant to the president of China International Television, the overseas arm of CCTV.

Mainland Chinese TV has long been criticized for pandering to censors' tastes, with the result being dull programming. Ma said it was natural that CCTV should want to co-produce more TV with Hong Kong, where people share a common culture with China.

"Drive," which stars a cast of 12 attractive, mostly Hong Kong actors, is set for a simultaneous July 1 premiere on TVB's Jade channel and a yet-to-be-named CCTV channel, marking the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong's return to China from former ruler Britain.

Cao Yin, deputy director of the international cooperation department of China's State Administration of Radio Film and Television, said that in the run-up to the unveiling of the communist government's latest five-year plan later this year, China's Ministry of Commerce will provide increased support services to the film and broadcast industries visiting the mainland.

"If we plan carefully together, Hong Kong and China can make sure that Chinese-language television programs can have an increasing influence around the world," Cao said.

TVB broadcasting general manager Stephen Chan, who has long overseen co-productions with mainland stations but never before worked with CCTV, said TVB will control overseas sales for the show and that he expects it to reach about 1.5 billion viewers.

Series and production costs for "Drive" were not disclosed, but Chan said that they are being split evenly between TVB and CCTV. As for revenue from profits if the show proves a hit, Chan would not offer specifics. "We share the cost, we share the revenue," he said. "It's a fair deal, but these are sensitive business details."

The series began shooting last year in Hong Kong, the mainland and Canada. Final filming on the series begins Wednesday in Beijing.

Chan said the two companies also are working together on a 10-episode documentary about Hong Kong set for release in July.
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