'Takeaway' licensing hints at trend

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HONG KONG -- The licensing of popular British format "Saturday Night Takeaway," by U.K.-based Granada International to Hunan Television in China on Tuesday, signals a trend in which Chinese content providers are pushing for foreign advertising dollars, Granada's Asia regional director told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday.

"In order to attract international advertisers, Chinese broadcasters want to put their money into something that is a known quantity, not an unknown local format. If advertisers can see it's been successful overseas then they're more likely to be interested," said James Ross, Granada's Asia regional director.

Fortune 500 company Procter & Gamble, one of China's biggest buyers of television ads, had their commercials screened during the previous HNTV hit show "Super Girl Voice."

It is not always an easy task selling formats to China, according to Ross. Granada and HNTV negotiated the "Saturday Night" deal for a year.

The licensing of reality show "The Apprentice" in China in September 2006, brokered by Creative Artists Agency, was hailed as the first reality show to be licensed to China from North American producers (HR 11/22). However, it has yet to make it to air.

"The big issue for format licensing in China continues to be a regulatory issue because they clamped down on doing talent shows and also clamped down on the phone voting via SMS. That had a big impact," Ross said.

He added that India and Indonesia are the hottest format markets, with Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia bringing up the rear, and Taiwan and Korea still copying other's ideas.

"The China format market is of growing importance. Only a few years ago they were taking other peoples formats and paying nothing for them. The turn around in the last few years is interesting because now they're willing to pay for format," Ross said.

"I think it's because the TV market is increasingly competitive in China," he added. "There are hundreds of channels and people need good ideas to get more viewers, so it's no good getting something that someone down the road. Broadcasters need to look further afield to get good ideas."
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