In China, television is king. China may be king of the printed word, and China may have the largest internet population in the world, but it is television that sits at the head of the table. And, as highlighted in my last post, with China having the third largest advertising market in the world, television and its traditional friends play an all-important role in the burgeoning media landscape. Money aside, traditional media also remain the most trusted sources of information. Of course, this is shifting for some demographics, but not enough for you to ignore the traditional kingpins in your marketing and communications strategies.
With over 370 TV channels, it may seem odd that the only national TV network is the state-run China Central Television (CCTV); with 20+ channels under the CCTV brand, it also includes the globally exported CCTV News and their newly announced 3D channel, which is the first of its kind in China. However, many local and regional TV stations can be picked up throughout the country, depending on the satellite and cable services that are available in a given region.
China’s media is also putting more emphasis on exporting, and television is seen as a key component of plans to expand the reach of Chinese content. This is highlighted in the recent news that China is willing to invest heavily in the digitalization of TV across Africa, and has already been seen in the exporting of CCTV News and Xinhua News Agency’s decision to set-up an office in New York’s Times Square.
Television advertising is costly. There is no other way to put it. There has been an increase in demand for advertising space as more and more international brands look for ways to reach the ever-more affluent Chinese consumers, and this has also driven more local advertisers to want extra ad time. On top of this, there are also a number of government regulations that have pushed the cost of advertising on television even higher. Therefore, if you can afford it, and if you have the right type of product/service – consumer brands like adidas or global organizations like the WWF, for example – there are certainly benefits to getting your time on TV.
High advertising costs aside, television offers unrivalled reach. With a penetration rate of 97%, television is the centerpiece for many of China’s 1.3 billion citizens, and around 200 million of those are cable TV users and 88 million digital TV users; a number that is expected to increase to 268 million by 2017, according to Digital TV Research. Advertisers are clearly aware of its power, as television advertising accounts for 76% of all advertising revenues in China. It’s unlikely that television advertising will lose much of its impetus in the coming years, and it will continue to excel in terms of both reach and engagement.
That said, many traditional media today now also feature web platforms, like CCTV’s CNTV, and these are powerful competitors to the newer online media platforms that are already fighting it out to win Chinese netizens.
As touched on earlier, while television remains a trusted source of information, there are more people moving to online sources, especially younger, more educated Chinese. The variety of programming online is much more comprehensive than that available on the main networks, and there are far fewer restrictions on what you can watch and when you can watch it. Watching online is increasingly attractive as it allows netizens to QQ, weibo and catch-up on showbiz gossip while watching the latest episode of Glee.
It’s certainly wise to think online, to think mobile, and to think about effective two-way communications, but television is not yet ready to be locked up in an old store room and forgotten about. Having an integrated strategy that provides localized content to your stakeholders in China will go a long way, and television is one of the elements you might want to look at.
With so many potential customers in China, success comes when you play to the masses, and television is certainly one type of media that allows for that to happen. There are obviously more cost-effective ways to reach large audiences, but few offer the same level of reach as television. And, while younger, more educated Chinese are moving online, television still works.