UK China Creative Exchange for TV companies

This article is also available in Chinese here.


Leading Chinese and UK television producers have been fostering new relationships and collaborating on creative TV pitches through the UK China Creative Exchange programme in London. The initiative is run by Pact, the UK industry body representing independent producers of TV, film and other content.

On 11th March 2019, the third edition of the annual event, Chinese companies Beijing Television Station, Bilibili and Shanghai Animation Films Studios were among those mixing with UK indies, heads of development and commissioning editors during an innovative day of networking, practical exercises and workshop sessions.

It is part of a series of initiatives to encourage collaboration between TV industries in both countries including the agreement of the first UK-China TV co-production agreement in 2017, and a series of creative partnerships announced by the two governments. 

These partnerships included increased distribution in China for the children’s TV series, Octonauts (pictured below), which is produced by Silvergate Media for the BBC.

The Exchange, supported by the Department for International Trade (DIT) and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, saw Chinese and UK attendees form different teams to develop a format idea based on a ‘commissioning brief’ set by training organisers, Grand Scheme Media. Participants also had plenty of opportunity to network during the day.

For the rest of their week-long visit, the Chinese delegates met with independent TV producers across the UK to share ideas and forge new collaborations.

The core concept behind the UK China Creative Exchange is enabling UK and Chinese producers to forge meaningful and lasting relationships.

Pact’s Director of Business Development and Global, Dawn McCarthy-Simpson commented: “China is now the second biggest TV market in the world, behind the US, and we want to make sure UK indies have the right skills, training and connections to make the most of the huge opportunity that presents.

“What’s so great about this exchange is that it brings UK and Chinese talent face to face to discuss ideas and what we have in common, but also to learn about differences which may be fertile ground for new creative collaborations.”

UK China Creative Exchange 3

(Above: TV execs at the UK China Creative Exchange. Source: Pact)

The Exchange follows the announcement by Pact of a new legal framework, designed to protect the sharing of confidential ideas and intellectual property between UK and Chinese co production partners.

Fully compliant with both UK and Chinese law, the framework adds to a suite of legal and logistics documents featured in the UK-China Film & TV Toolkit, a resource developed along with the UK’s Intellectual Property Attaché to China based in the British Embassy in Beijing and the British Film Institute (BFI).

In 2018, the world’s most populous nation overtook the UK to become the second biggest TV market on the planet in terms of TV programming spend.

UK TV production company Zig Zag has been among the beneficiaries of this increased spend, having developed physical gameshow format, 'Ancient Games', with Chinese producer-distributor, 3C Media, following the 2017 UK-China Creative Exchange and subsequent Pact trade missions.

There is now a wealth of opportunities for UK indies to work with China’s TV community. This has been driven by the explosive growth of the country’s abundance of online content platforms.

BBC Studios President of global markets Paul Dempsey has said that the Asian ‘BATs’ – an acronym of stock listings for Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent –are as significant to the BBC’S production and distribution business as the ‘FAANG’ players – namely Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google.

For UK production companies, the fact that Tencent-owned social media platform, WeChat, has over 1bn monthly active users means that producers are able to develop a super niche piece of short-form content and still gain a reasonably sized audience.

Moreover, compared to many platforms in the West, China’s online platforms offer extreme brand integration with opportunities to display content and sell any merchandise or event tickets associated to content. On WeChat, for instance, it is possible for audiences to make quick payments online, and for a UK TV maker this offers a symbiotic relationship between content, mobile content and payment.

For example, Zig Zag is involved in a platform that is catering to the Chinese markets interested in international sport and has teamed up with Rebecca Yang’s Anglo-Chinese producer, IPCN, to develop short-form street art series, The Writing’s on the Wall.

The series, which launched on IPCN’s short-form channel, Channel R, appealed to a core younger demographic and provided a shop window for the art featured in the show, which was available to buy from an associated touring exhibition.

The advice to leading UK TV producers looking to expand in China is to ensure they have Chinese-language speakers on the team – ideally a combination of Chinese nationals living in the UK or people who have been educated in China.

For UK TV producers, China is a vast and potentially very unfamiliar market, so it is also important to ensure that UK executives are working with the right person at China’s digital platforms.

That is why TV executives believe that events like Pact’s UK-China Creative Exchange can help develop the relationships that continue to grow between the two countries.

For more information on Pact’s international initiatives, contact Yuan Liu, International Coordinator & Chinese Translator (


More UK-China cases available here.

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