Media and Advertising

Budgets and boring TV

Larry Rinaldi endures torture by TV

The new issue of AdAge China is online. Two items of interest:

- A profile of Sam Flemming, CIC Data founder and accidental China Daily contributor;

- A column by China ad agency veteran Larry Rinaldi, in which he describes his anguish after watching a week of May 1 holiday week TV, "surfing aggressively morning and night," covering "60 to 70 channels, from terrestrial broadcasters like the national network CCTV, Beijing TV and Shanghai TV to satellite channels based in provinces like Anhui, Hunan and Jilin to small local channels".


...[W]orst was the remarkable "sameness" of the programming, by genre, subject, schedule, format, repetition, and poor quality...

...Most people would say that this is a result of heavy-handed government control or censorship, the logic being that increasing the quality of content diminishes the propaganda value of the media. While there is some truth to that, there is an equally and perhaps more fundamental reason: productions have a very hard time making money.

Production companies have to spend as little as possible, in the shortest period of time, to have even a chance to profit. Consequently, productions often come in under budget and on time. The less spent, the more corners cut, the less risk and maybe you have a whiff of profit. Quality doesn't pay.

Production companies' only customers are TV stations and they know it. A national network like CCTV can buy a 40-episode drama with 1,800 minutes of programming for as little as $375,000, sometimes less.

The numbers work like this: a new 40-episode drama including sets, actors' fees, etc. will cost about $625,000, perhaps less. As much as 50% of that can go to talent, more if a national celebrity is cast. CCTV or a national satellite station may offer $375,000 for "first-run" rights and unlimited rerun rights, if they're lucky. The production company then must go out and sell "second-run" rights, station-by-station, piecing together a rudimentary form of syndication...

Read the whole thing here: Tech specialist Larry Rinaldi - Watching Labor Day Television

There are currently 3 Comments for Budgets and boring TV.

Comments on Budgets and boring TV

If stations will barter time for content, then why aren't more content providers using this to get around the miserly fees stations pay? Or... Why bargain for $25 an episode if you can get x% of the time to sell for considerably more? There is doubtless a reason for this, but I don't catch it in Rinaldi's article. And yes, when my local friends turn on Chinese tv, I retreat to a book or the computer.

because the tv stations are greedy and the tight government regulations mean that they can get away with screwing over the production companies. with no competition they can do whatever they want and maximize the profits for the tv stations themselves. it's the capitalist system with chinese characteristics at work. the ultimate loser here is chinese culture and media.

A big part of this is indeed the corruption at the programming level. For example, last year's (big TV event I think I'd better not name for libel reasons) had a fairly large budget for music.

However, only 50% of that was available to the company with the successful tender, as part of the deal required them to return half the budget, only in cash, to the programme director. What can the company do? If they say no, they lose the job and will probably never get another chance, as long as that (fairly influential) gala director is around.

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