Brit dramas a hit with online sophisticates

Updated: 2013-12-02 07:40

By Liu wei (China Daily)

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Wit, detail help UK series avoid the 'disdain chain'

American entertainment products dominate in many parts of the world, but British TV creators will be cheered to learn a new term invented by China's young Web users.

They call it the "disdain chain", snubbing American shows on the Internet in favor of British series.

 Brit dramas a hit with online sophisticates

A suave dresser on Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch brings British fashion and wit to hardcore fans in China. Provided to China Daily

The group also looks askance on those watching South Korean dramas.

Users who only follow Chinese local productions, unfortunately, are at the lowest end.

"British TV dramas are humorous and thought-provoking at the same time," said Zhao Bingbing, who has 12 years management experience in China-UK cultural exchange and trade.

"The scripts are sophisticated. Lines witty," said Zhao. "Actors have solid training in theater. All these factors make watching British shows something classy."

Zhao said the UK Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai Expo and the 2012 London Olympics were drives that greatly promoted British culture.

Now more and more refined British shows and audiences in China are finding each other through video websites, which are themselves in fierce competition as they constantly search for appealing new content.

Major Chinese video websites Youku and Tencent both perceive British dramas as a new growth point for their streaming services.

Youku is now screening the fourth season of Downton Abbey simultaneously with its UK release.

Brit dramas a hit with online sophisticates

The website has also inked multi-show deals with the BBC, Shine and Fremantle to stream 32 shows. At the same time Tencent has secured exclusive rights to 13 British shows with 500 episodes, including the classic Doctor Who and the new hit Black Mirror.

The most popular British drama so far on Youku is The White Queen's first season, which was viewed 12.5 million times by press time.

Topping the screening list of Tencent's British Drama Channel is the first season of Skins, viewed 12.1 million times so far.

Chinese research agency Entgroup has studied who is watching the shows and found most are young and better educated.

A report it released in June on Douban and Mtime, two popular websites among young adults, said 13.48 percent of the users pay close attention to British dramas, while only 1 percent discuss South Korean shows.

It also found that the number of people holding a master's degree among Merlin's audience is twice the figure for Love in the Spring, a Chinese show, and When Men Are in Love, a South Korean title released in the same period. "British shows are often shorter and more intense than American series. For white collar workers and students, they are easier to follow," said Xiao Chen, moderator of an online community on British TV dramas.

"And a great number of Chinese students went to Britain to attend colleges. When they come back they naturally become ambassadors to promote British culture among young people."

Zhao Qinghui, an amateur researcher of royal families and history, said British shows deserve her admiration for their high production values.

"British shows have a keen eye on detail," she said.

"Often adapted from classic literature, they loyally represent the empire's history by exquisite details in costume, accent and settings."

At the same time, she fancies British humor.

"Compared to American shows, the British ones are more delicate.

"Their humor does not always make you laugh, but you smile when you understand the subtleness."

(China Daily 12/02/2013 page16)