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Chinese Resolutions: HDTV is Poised to Explode in China in Time for the Beijing Olympics

China is gearing up for further development in high definition (HD) television, both from content production and broadcasting perspectives. Despite the current limited amount of material available for viewing, there is strong confidence in the market. A panel of three representatives from mainland China's production and broadcasting industry offered their opinions at the Hong Kong Filmart's Seminar on HDTV in China, entitled "The Development Dimension of HDTV Under the Current Development of Digital Broadcasting in the Chinese Mainland" held on the morning of 23 March.

The discussions were moderated by Mr Kristian Kender, Research Director with CMM Intelligence from mainland China. He began by noting that currently China has 110 million households with cable television capable of carrying HD content, and that the goal is by 2015, all analog broadcasting will cease. Introducing each speaker respectively as the producer, channel operator and programming sales component of the talk, he added that CTV was the first HDTV channel to be launched in China last year.

The first speaker was Mr Ma Zhong Jun, Chairman of Ciwen Digital Oriental Film and a renowned scriptwriter in mainland China. He said that the current situation in his country is rather embarrassing for HDTV, since the technology is so new that it does not have much funding or advertising yet. However, he acknowledged that it is a better medium for recording certain types of programming, such as martial art dramas.

"The market has yet to mature in mainland China," Ma explained. "We are still working on producing enough content for HDTV. Many production companies use HD techniques in production, but follow it up with an alternative in post-production. They simply cannot cover the costs yet. Profits from HDTV are not high, so we have to find our own sources of financing." One method is co-productions with other countries such as Korea and Hong Kong, but the minimum revenue must be considered for both markets before a project is tackled.

Mr Tao Li Bao, Executive Director of Programming and Scheduling for CCTV HD Channel in mainland China, stated that the first HDTV drama series launched in the year 2000, and by 2008, there will be a free HDTV channel. In the interim period, HDTV is a pay television channel. So far, over 2,000 hours of programming has been prepared for HDTV, with a daily broadcast quantity of up to 2.5 hours and 60 different programs, including content from Korea and North America. Foreign content is typically aired after 10pm, with programs targeted at adult male viewers, in accordance with CCTV's surveys. These include extreme sports, crime dramas and documentaries.

"HDTV programs costs four times more than regular productions," Tao said. "But this is the direction China has to go. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will be entirely broadcasted in HDTV, and we will open up a new channel prior to this to show documentaries related to the games." Previously, CCTV has partnered with a television manufacturer to increase market exposure, as HDTV is best complemented by the appropriate HD equipment. "We want to help consumers buy the right TV. Otherwise, we may be blamed since they don't see a difference but have to pay a fee to watch our channel."

Business Manager with Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, Ms Fan Bei Bei said that her company was working on transforming standard definition (SD) programs to HDTV. She anticipated that Japan's market is a lucrative one for the new format, which would rapidly follow the growth in Europe and North America. "Though the market in Asia is small right now, there is great potential and we are ready for further development," she said.


For press enquiries, please contact Ms Rochelle Lewis at 2584 4403.

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