Friends, I was all Zoomed out. I had closed my camera. I had muted myself, indefinitely.
The cause of my suffering was not uncommon: virtual market fatigue.
Keynotes were no longer worth noting. Q&A had come to mean quiet and awkward. And I had nothing to say in the chat except “naptime?”
So, I pulled the plug on all the Habbo Hotel-like market experiences and I decided to wait until the real-life markets were finally resuscitated, however long that might be.
But then something happened that made me reconsider my embargo on online markets.
I got an email about MIP China.
As someone who attended the inaugural MIP China in Hangzhou, I have to admit I have what the Chinese call “a big heart” for this particular market. When I first showed up in person back in 2017 with my freshly printed bilingual business cards, I really didn’t know what to expect.
All I knew was that China had been very good to me and my old company, Little Airplane Productions, and I wanted to try and give something back to the local animation industry.
So, I gave a speech on preschool IP creation. I was a one trick pony and that was my one trick.
What followed was a week of career-changing meetings and meals. I met a dozen or so high-level Chinese government and business leaders, many of whom have remained close friends and colleagues to this day. MIP China helped me plant the seeds for what would become my new venture, China Bridge Content, whose focus is the intersection of China and the world.
So, not only will I attend this year’s event, but I’ll give a presentation on building co-productions with Chinese partners that can succeed globally. As an executive producer on two popular China/U.S. co-productions — Super Wings with Alpha and P. King Duckling for Disney Junior U.S. — I have some strong opinions on what to do in China and, just as importantly, what not to do.
So, now I am now a two-trick pony, my second trick being knowing how to work with China.
All of this is to say that I will be happily joining MIP China in June (with virtual bells on), and I strongly encourage you to do the same. Although you won’t be able to visit Hangzhou’s serene West Lake, or drink green tea from freshly-picked Hangzhou tea leaves, you will be able to:
1) Make powerful friends. The roster of guests this year includes execs from the top Chinese media companies including iQIYI, Youku and Billibilli, all of whom are actively creating, buying and co-producing shows. MIP China’s Partnership Forum will use their proprietary algorithms to make sure you get one-on-one face time with all of the leading China and APAC buyers.
2) Seek financing. Among the attendees will be a variety of Chinese venture capital outfits looking to build relationships with IP owners, distributors and animation studios. “Joint Venture” is also a phrase you’ll hear quite often at MIP China, as many of the largest brands in the world, including Disney and Universal, operate in China through their local joint ventures.
3) Access the world’s biggest market. The Chinese middle class has grown to 400 million people, which is roughly twice the population of all Western Europe. There are now more kids in China than there are people in the United States. And there are as many humans living in Shanghai as there are living in Australia. If yours is a global company, you must be in China.
4) Experience the future. From the coveted algorithms that drive TikTok’s success, to the creation of super apps like WeChat, China is no longer a follower in the world of IP innovation. China has taken the lead in using new technologies to deliver novel entertainment experiences. This year’s MIP China guest list includes Chinese global tech leaders Huawei and Tencent.
So, there you have it. My heartfelt plug for MIP China.
Now, I realize that some of you may have been drinking the anti-China Kool-Aid lately. All I can say is that I believe it behooves us all to keep an open mind. As Xi Jinping said, “China needs to learn more about the world, and the world also needs to learn more about China.”
But if that’s too Pollyanna for you, as Tom Friedman says, “We are doomed to work together.”
Regardless of your politics, I do hope to see you at MIP China in June. Unmuted.
Josh Selig is the Founder and President of China Bridge Content, a company committed to building strong creative and business ties between China and the world. He is the Emmy-winning creator of many popular children’s shows including Wonder Pets and Small Potatoes. He is the former CEO of Little Airplane Productions, which was acquired in 2017 by Studio 100. He has written articles for The New York Times and Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.