ITV Deepens Ties With China's Huace

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Following the recent ratings success of their Chinese figure skating show 'Star on Ice,' directed by Zhang Yimou, the two networks inked an agreement to further their co-production ties.

U.K. TV giant ITV is deepening its relationship with leading Chinese film and television production house Huace Film & TV.

The two companies signed a "long-term cooperation agreement" at ITV's headquarters in London this week, promising to work together to co-produce content for the Chinese market and other international territories. 

The tie-up is an extension of a cooperative agreement inked last year between Huace and ITV Studios Global Entertainment, when the two partners agreed to collaborate on the figure skating show Star on Ice, which was produced in China as part of the lead-up to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Directed by acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, the first season of the celebrity ice skating competition show began airing in January and has been a commercial and critical success. The show features well known Chinese celebrity contestants training with veteran Olympic athletes.

"Based on the popularity of Star on Ice, Huace and ITV have agreed to put in place a long-term strategy cooperation," Du Fang, vp of Huace Group told the Chinese media. "Together with ITV's expertise, [Huace] hopes to achieve an even brighter future." The signing event, held in London, was targeted at the Chinese media.

Listed on the Shenzhen stock exchange and based in Hangzhou, Huace is one of China's larger TV and film production companies, specializing in TV dramas.

In December, Huace and ITV also signed a deal to produce a Chinese version of an unnamed ITV Studios scripted format, with Huace handling the show's distribution in China and across Asia, and ITV Studios overseeing sales for the rest of the world.

Mike Beale, executive vp global development and formats for ITV Studios, said the new collaboration pact is "very significant, especially with the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television here pushing this relationship forward."

"There is an understanding that we need to work together and get shows made, and it is not just about bringing Western content into China, but co-creating new content that will work in China and potentially leave China and work for the rest of the world as well," Beale said.

"I am pretty sure that this is going to be a good start, setting a good example for all the stakeholders and practitioner in the TV production area, " said Xiang Xiaowei, minister counselor for Culture of Chinese Embassy in the United Kingdom, calling the collaboration a "win-win."

Star on Ice is the first U.K.-China TV production to air since the two countries signed the China-U.K. TV Co-Production Treaty in December. The U.K. is the second country to secure a television treaty with China, after New Zealand.  

Compared to the gold rush atmosphere surrounding the Chinese film business, the approach of most Western TV companies to China has been slow and steady. With regulators limiting the number of foreign formats allowed into the market, many international TV companies have turned to co-producing Chinese-language shows with local partners.

STX Entertainment recently scored a ratings hit with the celebrity-driven variety show, Number One Surprise, co-produced with China’s XG Entertainment. HBO Asia, meanwhile, recently produced two Chinese-language martial arts movies with state broadcaster CCTV. The kung fu flicks, Master Of The Shadowless Kick and Master Of The Drunken Fist, aired on the two networks in December.

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