MIPCOM: Viacom's MTV, Nickelodeon Unveil China Partnerships

Courtesy of Viacom
Pierre Cheung, senior vp and general manager, Greater China, Viacom - P 2018

MTV is teaming with WebTVAsia to bring shortform video content to Generation Z, while Nickelodeon will develop animation projects.

Viacom's MTV and Nickelodeon at MIPCOM in Cannes on Tuesday unveiled deals and initiatives for China, providing new opportunities in the big Asian market for two of the company's flagship brands.

The company’s MTV has reached a cooperation agreement with Asian media company WebTVAsia covering short-orm video content for China’s Generation Z. Under the deal, financial terms of which weren’t disclosed, WebTVAsia will have exclusive streaming rights to select made-in-China shortform content from the MTV library to be streamed on its partner platforms in mainland China. Music-based programming covered by the deal includes MTV music charts, MTV News, pop culture features and more. So far, MTV content was available in the country only via the MTV China channel.

The second agreement covers the launch of a five-year Nickelodeon Chinese Animation Development Project with the support of China’s National Radio and Television Administration, which is designed to "drive new animation coproductions in and with China." Viacom can do up to two qualifying projects annually under the initiative, which could include the new animation titles, new seasons of existing popular Chinese animation programs or Chinese versions of Nickelodeon’s existing animation properties. 

The first project backed by the initiative is a partnership with Chinese online streaming giant iQiyi for the development of a second season of original children’s animation series Deer Run (working title). A Nickelodeon-iQiyi deal for the first season was unveiled last year and marked the first time that Nickelodeon Asia worked on a Chinese original from its conception stage after having previously simply acquired Chinese content.

Currently in production, the first season of the 40-episode 11-minute CG-animated series is set to premiere in the first quarter of 2020. The collaboration for the second season will continue to see Nickelodeon providing creative guidance and supervision, with Viacom set to air it on Nickelodeon international networks outside of China, while exploring the show’s licensing potential outside of the country. 

“We are thrilled to expand our cooperation with Nickelodeon to develop Deer Run. Recently, iQiyi is committed to producing outstanding original content, and we will continue to work with talented partners to bring the best content to our users,” said the Chinese company’s chief content officer, Wang Xiaohui.

Deer Run, with its endearing and humorous storylines and compelling, relatable characters, proves that great original animation content can come from any part of the world,” said Nina Hahn, senior vp international production and development. 

“With vital support from NRTA via the Nickelodeon Chinese Animation Development Project and through our ongoing strategic relationship with iQiyi, we believe there is an exciting opportunity to showcase China’s fantastic animation talent and resources to the international market," said Mark Whitehead, president and managing director, Asia Pacific, Viacom International Media Networks.

Asked by THR what it takes for Chinese animation projects to succeed abroad, he said: "To take animation outside of China, we will need to identify great Chinese content, which checks off the boxes for us: great storytelling and characters; strong production quality; ability for content to travel around Asia and internationally; a plus [is] content that taps into fans' desire to interact with the characters and gives us an ability to take the animation property beyond the screen. And that’s why we’re so excited about iQiyi’s Deer Run as we believe it has checked off all the boxes."

"We are delighted an international media company like Viacom has demonstrated their commitment to the Chinese market and will be taking the lead in further promoting Chinese children’s animation," said China’s National Radio and Television Administration. "We look forward to seeing the co-creation of new intellectual properties in and by China’s animation community in partnership with Viacom."

Meanwhile, the WebTVAsia deal is aimed at delivering shortform videos to China’s Generation Z. Mobile data has becoming cheaper and cheaper in China, which has helped drive the growth in shortform consumption. Under MTV's deal with WebTVAsia, made-in-China content will first become available on Tencent’s recently launched Yoo Video shortform video app. 

“The young generation is clearly watching more and more video via mobile, which is driving the popularity of shortform video apps in China, along with the growing demand for original shortform content,” said Pierre Cheung, senior vp and general manager, Greater China, Viacom International Media Networks. “Hence, as part of our strategy with Viacom Digital Studios International, we’re bringing the power and scale of Viacom’s global content engine to support the Chinese industry, starting first with our original made-in-China content for the Chinese.” 

Said Fred Chong, Group CEO of WebTVAsia: "As a content creation company reaching audiences in China and Asia since 2005, we understand the culture and consumption trends of these markets. Hence, our unique leading position bridging China partners like Tencent, Baidu, Toutiao, NetEase, Weibo, Youku and iQiyi to global content partners. I’m pleased to be partnering [Viacom] in expanding business together in China." 

Cheung told THR: "China’s Generation Z is the first Chinese generation to have been born in a fully modern, mobile-first nation. They have the world at their fingertips, never knowing a time when Internet access wasn’t high-speed and mobile. It is this generation that’s changing the way we do business. They are clearly watching more and more video via mobile, which is driving the popularity of shortform video apps in China." As such, he said that "the collaboration will strengthen MTV’s audience touch-points across multiple platforms, including social and mobile."

China is this year’s country of honor at MIPCOM.