How Chinese TV is making its way to Sub-Saharan Africa

Liu Tao and Qiao Xin at an audience meeting of Ode to Joy in Tanzania

As Tencent is making its way to Thailand and iQiyi partners with Malaysia, another group of Chinese media firms have already settled in Africa. Since 2007, Beijing-based media company Star Times  has established itself in over 30 African countries with 26 million users. The company is also working with Chinese and African governments to provide tv access to underserved rural communities in twenty-five African countries.   The company offers two channels featuring Chinese dramas – SinoDrama and Star Times Kung Fu.  Star Times have has also held competitions to bring African acting talents to its Beijing Campus to translate and dub everything from Latin American telenovelas to Thai dramas into English, French, Portuguese, Swahili, Hausa, Zulu, Yoruba and Luganda.

Over the past month, the heads of Daylight Entertainment (Nirvana in Fire, Ode to Joy) and Linmon Entertainment (A Little Separation, Hunting) and the cast of Ode to Joy attended events in Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania as a part of the Chinese-African audio-video exchange to discuss further collaboration between Chinese and African media companies.

Their visit follows the filming of the first Chinese drama made in collaboration with the Kenyan government last month, Wang Kai and Wang Ou’s upcoming crime thriller Hunting.

Hunting ‘s Kenyan special. The series is the first drama collaboration with the Kenyan government.

In addition to filming collaborations and broadcasting Chinese dramas, Star Times has also begun producing its own local content using Chinese formats. It’s biggest hit so far is a local version of If You Are The One that was such a hit in Zambia that the show expanded to have Kenyan and Nigerian versions within less than a year. The show is conceived by the Chinese headquarters but produced locally with many

And it’s not just TV. One of the biggest music streaming services in Sub-Saharan Africa is Boomplay, a joint venture between two Chinese companies – Internet giant Netease and phone company Transsion. Unlike Star Times which brings in popular foreign shows, Boomplay caters to the local market by exclusively focusing on giving a platform for local artists.

While companies Star Times and Boomplay seem to be going about it in different ways, these two and the recent moves by iQiyi and Tencent are definitely all signs that like other Chinese industries, the Chinese entertainment industry seems to be focused more on the developing world’s market rather than trying to compete with the developed world.

On a final note, if you were unpleased with the translation for White Snake, you’ll love to hate this English dub for The Eternal Love: I may have spent too much of my time listening to the terrible dubs of various shows on this channel:

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