3 Reasons to be Skeptical of China’s Plan to Build Media Empires

media1Another year, another plan by China’s propaganda divisions to build giant media empires that it feels will help better position the country in the global media marketplace.  After the Olympic torch relay debacle last year, plans surfaced that Beijing feels that its side of the story is not getting out there.  So the 2008 plan  was to build an Al Jazeera-style all news network to rival CNN, the BBC and France24, now this year they want to expand beyond news to create full-scale media empires.

David Wolff is right to be skeptical that China will ever come around to actually launching a full-scale, internationally credible news network, however they might instead get their act together to assemble a media conglomerate for their entertainment assets.  Here are three reasons why this is a really bad idea:

1) IN THIS DAY AND AGE, BIG IS NOT BETTER: Global media companies like Time Warner, Viacom and Disney are too big to maneuver in the age of the internet.  The future of media is interactive, highly flexible and predominantly online.

2) THEY WERE SUCCESSFUL WITH CARS, BANKS SO WHY NOT MEDIA?: The Chinese appear to be ripping a page from their “conglomerate playbook” where they invest massively in an industry to rapidly build marketshare and then move to compete globally.  The problem, though, is that media is different than manufacturing and financial services because the product’s success depends on the credibility behind the messenger.  Until China can free its news divisions from the grip of the Propaganda Ministry, it will have a hard time convincing the international community that its news and entertainment offers an alternative.

3) THEY ALREADY HAVE SCALE, JUST NOT ON TV: While the State Council may believe that Shanghai Media Group is the future of Chinese media, the truth is that SMG’s audience size will always lie in the shadow of China’s dynamic online media market.  Chinese online media companies like Sina, QQ.com and even Baidu are all ranked in the top 30 of the world’s largest web companies.  It’s totally understandable that China wants to have a stronger voice in the international media space, the problem is that the State Council is going about it the wrong way.  Give 21st century media companies more room to grow and maneuver rather than invest in last century’s media technologies that are rapidily disappearing.

Still not convinced?

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