16 JAN 2023

Vincent Sun: "We are distributing Chinese formats all over the world”

The founder of iFORMATS remarks the global potential of the Chinese formats and details the outstanding shows they are delivering nowadays.


Vincent Sun


iFORMATS is an SMG's professional research platform focused on Chinese and Asian TV, OTT and Mobile program markets. Its founder Vincent Sun talked in exclusive with Señal News about the global potential of the Chinese formats and main goals for 2023.

How could you describe iFORMATS' offer for the global market?
"Since 2018, the iFORMATS team has been organizing a series of themed events such as Wisdom in China and ´Focus on China' in Cannes (France), Berlin (Germany), Kiev (Ukraine) and Lausanne (Switzerland). The aim is to introduce the most popular Chinese original formats to global TV organizations and overseas audiences. Even during the pandemic, we maintained constant communication with international buyers through online promotions. Our perseverance pays off. At one time, Chinese programs were mostly sold in the form of ready-made episodes instead of formats, but through the continuous efforts of our iFORMATS team, this situation has changed qualitatively. In the past two or three years, the original format created by Dragon TV, 'Singing With Legends', has successfully signed format licensing cooperation with France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal and the United States. In the second half of 2022, the Spanish version of 'Singing With Legends', 'Duos Increibles' which produced by RTVE, aired the first season and achieved great success. With excellent ratings, RTVE has been determined to renew its contract for the second season.

Furthermore, as a commercial platform, iFORMATS offers different types of services to enable domestic and global clients to interact with each other and create opportunities for cooperation, also commits to recommending excellent overseas programs to Chinese producers and audience. iFORMATS has held a series of media salons, high-end forums, format-innovation master classes and other events since the establishment of iFormats, in an effort to create a barrier-free communication space for Chinese and foreign practitioners. Our iFormats team organizes the 'Format Innovation Masterclass' during the Shanghai TV Festival every year, the 'Sino-foreign Format Summit' with the European Broadcasting Union and The Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union every year, the 'ASEAN 10+3 Documentary Exhibition' in 2021, and the 'IFORMATS SESSION' with the PACT in 2022. Whether it is selling Chinese models or helping overseas companies find Chinese buyers, our team's code of action has always been openness, tolerance, communication and cooperation, which is the win-win mentality that our team has always adhered to, based in China and facing the world."

What is the global potential of Chinese formats?
"Official data shows that by the end of June 2022, the number of Internet users in China exceeded 1.05 billion, and the proportion of mobile phone access reached 99.6%, which means that Chinese content, from research and development, production to broadcast and subsequent derivative development, is supported by huge data. Data can accurately target people with different preferences and can allow producers, advertisers and users to get the information or resources they need from a more vertical chain of content production. For example, there is an Instagram-like lifestyle sharing platform in China called Xiaohongshu, which is now also working on format making. This platform aggregates many users who love fancy lifestyle and travel, so it has developed a corresponding travel show for this group. While watching the program made by Xiaohongshu, users can not only gain travel knowledge, interact and chat with the guest stars via its platform, but even book hotels and buy tickets on it. Another example is a sitcom-themed variety show 'Kai Bo! Qing Jing Xi Ju' ('Let’s Roll! Sitcom') produced by Dragon TV. This show invites 8 sitcom production teams to create a brand-new series here. With the help of chief advisory group, market advisory group and content advisory group, those 8 team competes three rounds and the most popular sitcom IP can get sponsorship from Dragon TV and broadcast on it. Nowadays, the relationship between many Chinese shows and their audience is not just watch-and-be-watched. These TV programs have increased interaction with viewers and enhanced the immersion experience through a variety of methods, which provides not only emotional value to audience but also commercial value for themselves."

What are the highlight programms are you boosting nowadays?
"Dragon TV's original TV format 'The City of Musicals' is a talent competition reality show that aims to select outstanding musical actors. 32 contestants need to fully demonstrate their competitiveness in singing, dancing and acting in order to survive 5 rounds of eliminations. "Moving On", an original production launched in 2022 by the Heart Signal team of Tencent Video, is a romantic reality TV show about how to get over painful breakups. The reality show follows 8 people traveling together for 21 days as they step out of their comfort zones and achieve personal growth guided by expert knowledge such as behavioral psychology and group dynamics. "The truth" uncloaks what happens inside No.11 through eleven weeks (1 intro + 10 episodes) of storytelling. The 6 players are set the challenge of becoming crime investigators and finding out their origins as they team up to adventure to different floors and encounter other residents. "Key to heart" is a bold and entertaining dating show format that offers young singletons a chance to scrutinize potential dates’ smartphones before seeing what they look like. Three rounds. Three candidates. With the help of a matchmaking panel, young singletons are encouraged to be curious and ask blunt questions to find out everything that matters, only through an iconic vertical screen that’s connecting to each of their real phones in the studio."

Which is your distribution strategy? Would you like to increase your sales in some specific territories?
"Currently, our main clients are Chinese large platforms and production companies like Dragon TV, Hunan TV & Mango TV, Tencent and so on. We are distributing formats for them all over the world. Considering the differences in cultural backgrounds, market preferences and production capabilities of different countries and platforms, we have also hired a number of international consultants to assist us in categorising the programme formats we need to distribute, so that we can differentiate between production costs, programme genres and cultural styles for our clients during the sales process, and then provide them with a more suitable implementation plan. At the same time, we also ensure that our channels of communication with our overseas customers are always open through a certain number of online and offline events and promotions, which is important as we can only make the right choices while we understand what our customer needs. iFORMATS is a website platform born in Shanghai, China, for the global market, we have a unique geographical advantage, a market with potential for growth and a motivated workforce. We value the growth of our business in each region and are able to find the right platform for overseas agencies to work with in China, as well as tailor the content to their needs, with a flexible and simple operation mechanism that allows us to always respond quickly to our clients' requirements and complete the work efficiently.”

What are your main goals for 2023?
"Over the next five years, we are determined to develop the iFORMATS website into a globally renowned and effective shared service platform for transnational cultural communication and international format cooperation. Firstly, our iFORMATS team will continue to dig deeper into outstanding Chinese programme formats suitable for the international market in 2023, and actively promote the international sales and promotion of Chinese original programme formats. Secondly, we will further upgrade the 'Wisdom in China', 'Focus on China' and other thematic event brands, continue to make friends with Chinese and foreign TV producers and organizations, and establish a wide range of cross-border cultural exchanges and communications. Thirdly, we will leverage our strengths and resources in the global market, continue to deeply integrate resources in China and Asian, provide customized professional services, so that we can comprehensively promote the innovative development and business cooperation between Eastern and Western format and Internet video content."

We are determined to develop the iFORMATS website into a globally renowned and effective shared service platform for transnational cultural communication and international format cooperation” Vincent Sun Founder of iFormats