TV and online media-cooperating for a thriving future

Television channels and the online media need not necessarily be rivals. They can cooperate in an ever-growing market.

At least, this was the message at a forum organized by the Communication University of China in Beijing last week.

The co-host of the forum, Toutiao, which means "headline" in Chinese, one of the country's most popular smartphone news applications, revealed its ambition to work more closely with the traditional media.

"We're distributors of news," says Zhao Tian, vice-president of Toutiao. "Television will help us to build a win-win ecology for the industry."

Toutiao, which was set up in 2012, claims to have 310 million users, 30 million of them active daily. It promotes individualized content for different users according to an analysis of their viewing preferences. More than 20,000 articles are read via the platform every day.

More than 400 television, TV channels and programs have opened accounts on Toutiao to promote their content, but Zhao says that this is only the start.

A successful example of the cooperation in recent times was Sept 3's military parade in Beijing commemorating the 70th anniversary of victory in the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

China Central Television released its short videos, which were not broadcast on TV, via Toutiao's platform. The videos were viewed 80 million times in a single day.

"There is still huge potential to produce short videos in China," says Zhao.

"China's video websites mainly focus on long videos, such as soap operas or reality shows.

"Some news videos may qualify to be broadcast on national television, but they could be useful to the community. This could encourage more platforms like Toutiao to mushroom in the near future."

Meanwhile, for some television channels, big data and such online platforms has become their source of broadcast news.

For instance, Shanghai-based Dragon TV has kicked off a news program Headlines which uses content and data from Toutiao.

Zhou Wei, the producer of Headlines, says: "We have to adjust the content when we broadcast on TV.

"Traditional television still has the advantage of higher credibility. I don't believe that we will be replaced by 'self media' (a term used to describe news channels operated by individuals).

"Maybe it's easy for them to have wide influence, but it is difficult for them maintain an equally high standard every day. We offer them a better platform to maximize their value."

Nevertheless, the trend toward online media looks irreversible as fewer people watch TV in China.

According to a television-ratings analysis company CSM, in China, a TV viewer spent 156 minutes every day watching TV in the first half of 2015, compared with 168 minutes in the first half of 2011.

A statistic from Nielsen China, a research company, released at the forum says that last year 461 million people in China watched videos through the Internet, and 354 million through mobile devices like smartphones.

There were 230 million households of cable TV users in China at the end of June, a decrease of 2.2 percent compared with six months earlier, according to Lyu Yanmei, an official with the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

"It is an indisputable fact that television is losing its domination as a mainstream media," Lyu says. "A mixture of television and new media is inevitable."

China's regulations now do not allow regional television channels (with exception of satellite TV) to broadcast their programs to other administrative regions.

"Consequently, they can only expand their influence by turning their programs into online products. So the audiences need to be turned into users to increase interaction," Lyu says.

"China's television administrators often stay away from the Internet, which is operated by telecom firms. Now, they will have to be more active."