Simon Cowell’s Syco Entertainment has signed a three-year development deal with Canxing Production/Star China, one of China’s leading television production companies.
The deal, announced Monday by Jin Lei, Cowell and Canxing/Star China’s chief director and CEO of Canxing Production, will see the two companies develop large-scale entertainment formats for the Mainland Chinese market that also have international export potential.
Syco is best known for its hugely successful competition formats Got Talent and The X Factor, which have both been adapted worldwide. Canxing/Star China produces Sing! China, the number one entertainment show on Chinese TV, which has smashed online viewing records in its first season this year.
The company previously produced The Voice of China, a local adaptation of the hit singing format developed by Dutch company Talpa, but Talpa canceled that deal earlier this year and filed legal action against Star China, claiming the company took “unauthorized and unlawful” actions in relation to its format.
The Chinese television market is an El Dorado for TV companies like Syco, whose brand of shiny-floor entertainment has lost some of its luster in Western territories. As TV audiences in the U.S. and western Europe fragment, China still offers the potential of tens of millions of viewers over free-to-air broadcasters. The Voice of China drew more than 120 million viewers on TV and 400 million-plus online. The first season of Sing! China racked up 500 million total viewers on online platforms Tencent and Youku.
But the Chinese government this year introduced stricter regulations on the import of foreign TV formats, banning local satellite broadcasters from airing remakes of popular international reality shows and sharply restricting the number of such remakes allowed every year.
The move has been broadly interpreted as an attempt to strengthen local Chinese companies by forcing them to develop original programming — either by themselves or in cooperation with international partners. The Syco-Star China deal fits nicely into this new strategy. What remains to be seen is if the entertainment formats Cowell and friends make for the Chinese will also have global appeal.