Taiwan has taken to the international stage with its money where its mouth is and a plan that gives the creative industry national strategic importance. If a lot rides on the outcome of the January 2024 election, it’s not stopping today’s parade of regional & international partnerships.
Taiwan has set in place its most determined plan ever to cement the country’s creative industry place on the global stage. If there is one uncertainty, it’s the election in January 2024, which could, if things don’t go according to the current plan, change everything. But for now, the so called “black tide” initiative is a powerful force, leaving no doubt about the current administration’s well-funded commitment and support.
In his opening address for this year’s Taiwan Creative Content Fest (TCCF) in Taipei in November, Minister of Culture, Shih Che, talked about designating Taiwan’s creative sector as a national strategic industry, along with a combination of government funding and private sector investment. “This is just the beginning,” he told a packed audience gathered at the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park.
The Minister highlighted the NT$10 billion/US$318 million budgeted over four years from 2024 – dubbed the 1+4 T-content plan (aka “Black Tide” in the direct translation from Chinese). Starting next year, the Taiwan Cultural Content Fund will provide comprehensive support for the development of Taiwan’s cultural content industry in six major aspects of culture and the arts.
He also placed Taiwan squarely at the meeting point between Asia and the rest of the world, with an emphasis on ‘world’. “We hope that through this platform the world will see we are confident of our culture and we hope to speak a common language with the world and we hope that the world will see Asian culture through Taiwan”.
“In the digital realm, Taiwan is by no means a small nation. When we strengthen Taiwan’s cultural content, we are defending the territory of Taiwan’s culture,” he continued. Creative initiatives include the Creative Industry Promotion Act, which has already passed its third reading in the Executive Yuan and the Legislative Yuan. This means that investments in the creative industry receive tax incentives. In addition, the creative industry will be officially included in the ‘national strategic industry’ category.
Led by the Ministry of Culture and the government-backed Taiwan Creative Content Agency (Taicca), the six-day TCCF crowned an international calendar that has taken Taicca to screens, festivals and red carpets all over the world.
Final figures from the fourth TCCF edition – the largest and most international so far – came in at just over 24,600. A record 241 international industry execs from 29 countries were among the thousands of people who attended the event, organisers say. The b2b marketplace hosted more than 100 booths, including the first booth for Japanese trade organisation, Jetro.
Taicca made sure the six days were packed. Most visible were the stream of MoUs and the line-up of local and international media brands willing to shake hands on broad partnerships and pose for pictures. If the details were vague, the message was clear: there is no shortage of partners to fuel outsize creative ambitions. At the very least, whether the MoUs work out of not, this was a major show of support.
The fourth TCCF event ran shortly after Taiwan’s three leading telcos – Chunghwa Telecom, Taiwan Mobile and Far Eastone – signalled their commitment to creative investments in separate MoUs with Taicca. Each of the three telcos operates its own streaming platform.
In October, Chunghwa Telecom said it would invest NT$3 billion/US$95.4 million in film and television projects. Taiwan Mobile’s initiative with Warner Bros Discovery is also said to involve a NT$3-billion purse to fund development, production and distribution of premium video content. Far Eastone Telecommunications joined the other two a week ago with its own fund.
Although other countries sent delegations to TCCF, France led the political messaging.
“CNC will always stand by your side,” Dominique Boutonnat, president of the French national film centre, said during a MoU signing between CNC and Taicca. The positioning was backed up by the director of the Bureau Francais de Taipei, Franck Paris. “We have to think big now,” Paris said at the same ceremony.
Boutonnat spoke about connections and common ground, including creative freedom enjoyed in France and Taiwan, as well as about common approaches to artistic, editorial and political choices. Boutonnat said the first steps had been taken as part of a broader shared endeavour that would promote the “sustainability and strengthening of our professional ecosystems”. Taiwan, he added, “is our key partner in the region and has the potential to become the reference point in the world”.
Taicca chairman, Homme Tsai, said the expanded collaboration with CNC would focus on series, animation and talent incubation. His comments were part of a broad message he delivered throughout the event: “We’ve had significant achievements... [but] there is a lot of space to grow.”
Although usually beloved by governments as a signaling exercise, the MoUs unveiled in Taipei during the TCCF week also involved a slew of privately owned local, regional and international entities with their own signaling objectives.
These included the MoU between Taiwanese programmer TVBS and local telco/streamer Far EasTone, which tied up with the Hong Kong division of Korea’s CJ ENM to create a content fund that taps Taicca’s determination to drive an international agenda for Taiwanese content.
Hopes are that the MoU will result in a firm structure for a multi-year fund to co-produce and jointly distribute content within 12 months. CJ ENM HK managing director, Michael Jung, said during the signing ceremony that a final agreement would be sealed in the next year. “We have a long way to go, but this is a very big first step,” Jung said. The MoU was signed by Taicca’s Homme Tsai; COO of Far EasTone, Digital Entertainment, Gary Tsai; and general manager of TVBS, Sheena Liu. Culture minister, Shih Che, attended the signing ceremony.
Taicca’s hand continues to be felt up, down and across media sectors as the creative ecosystem is built out. Among Taicca’s many investments are Koko Entertainment, a NT$200-million public/private partnership between Taicca and Brilliant Creative, launched in October 2021 as a content incubator. Brilliant Creative is a joint venture between local production giant DaMou Entertainment, Kbro Media and HIM International Music.
It was DaMou Entertainment that led the high-profile reveal of 2024 production highlights, including a remake of Korean drama Itaewon Class and the return of The World Between Us for a second season. Production on both series begins in December 2023.
The Itaewon Class adaptation (working title Fired Up!) is the first international collaboration between the 10-year-old DaMou Entertainment and South Korean entertainment company Kakao Webtoon. Fired Up! will run as an HBO Asia original.
In another biggest-of-its-kind agreement announced at TCCF, Taiwanese streamer KKTV acquired 2,000 hours of Chinese drama and variety shows. Although commercial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, by volume this is the biggest deal Singapore broadcaster Mediacorp has ever signed in Taiwan, and its first with KKTV. The platform will stream the Singapore titles in a new Mediacorp-branded programming belt scheduled to launch in January 2024.
Drama titles headed for the new belt include the upcoming Kill Sera Sera, which will stream simultaneously on KKTV and Mediacorp’s online platform mewatch in January. Suspense drama Kill Sera Sera stars James Wen, Jessica Hsuan and Christopher Lee in the story of a mother trying to solve the mystery of her daughter’s murder. Other dramas heading for the platform are Shero, starring Joanne Pei as a photographer who joins a band of female bodyguards; and culinary-themed series, Love at First Bite. Variety programmes include Dishing with Chris Lee, King of Culinary and Fashion Refabbed.
Taiwanese production house, Screenworks Asia – another Taicca-linked venture – unveiled two original series as TCCF 2023 kicked off. Both of the new series, part of Taiwan’s growing creative footprint, will stream on homegrown platform Catchplay+ as well on mainland China’s iQiyi in the first quarter of 2024. The first series, crime suspense drama Not A Murder Story, directed by up-and-coming filmmaker Chen-Nien Ko, is scheduled for January, with a slot on Taiwan’s GTV Channel as well as on Catchplay Movies Channel. The series tells the story of a wannabe actor determined to let nothing, much less a dead woman, stand in the way of his success.
▶ Published in ContentAsia December 2023 magazine