Beyond Canned Television: BBC Earth’s Global Community Building and Coproduction Adventure in the Case of Tencent Video
VIEW Journal , Volume 9 - Issue 17 p. 21- 34
The October of 2018 saw the creation of BBC Earth Tribe, a global online brand representing BBC Natural History Unit (NHU)’s programming on Tencent Video, one of China’s leading online streaming services. Besides providing over 650 hours of BBC documentaries to Chinese online audiences, BBC Earth Tribe delivers unprecedented access to creators from BBC NHU through interactive screen forms and offline events. This article offers a study of BBC Earth’s global strategies in its partnerships with one of the largest Chinese digital platforms, Tencent, in terms of coproduction and online community building beyond traditional canned television distribution. It examines Project Penguin, which has formalised coproduction partnerships between BBC Studios and Tencent Online Media Group (OMG) since October 2018. The distribution partnerships involve not only pre-sales of BBC Earth’s flagship documentaries but also coproduction and online community building on Tencent-run platforms, from streaming services to social media platforms. By examining BBC Earth’s distribution strategies in the Chinese media landscape from the early 2000s, the paper aims to theorise distribution strategies between BBC Studios and Tencent Video and its socio-cultural implications on television distribution in the digital, multiplatform era of convergence.