Companies squabble over rights to Voice of China talent program
By Hao Nan (China Daily)
Updated: 2016-02-24

Feuding over the rights to The Voice of China between two Chinese companies has attracted wide attention and the competition is now intensifying.

 Companies squabble over rights to Voice of China talent program

A singer from Yunnan province performs at an audition for The Voice of China 2015.Yang Zheng / For China Daily

The Voice of China is the Chinese adaptation of The Voice of Holland, a singing competition program that originated in the Netherlands in 2010. Star China acquired the rights in 2012 to use the format from the owner Talpa Media from 2012 to 2015 at a cost of nearly 190 million yuan ($29.16 million).

The program brought high returns to the Chinese company as the show achieved huge success. According to CSM Media Research, The Voice of China topped nationwide ratings during its debut on Zhejiang Satellite TV in July 2012 and has become one of the most popular Chinese entertainment reality TV shows.

When Star China planned a fifth season of the program this year, Talpa Media released a statement that stated Star China no longer has the right to do so, as the contract between the two parties expired on Jan 8.

Talpa already licensed the copyright to another Chinese company Zhejiang Talent Television and Film Co to produce seasons five through eight. The four-season rights deal cost Talent $60 million.

Star China hit back, saying Talpa was in breach of contract. Star China said it has an exclusive right to renew the contract until 2018, but Talpa terminated the contract without negotiating with Star China. It also accused the Dutch company of violating international conventions by trying to extort hundreds of millions in licensing.

Talpa and Talent held a news conference to announce their cooperation on Jan 29 in Beijing, during which Talpa said the allegations from Star China were false. The Dutch company also said taking back the copyright of The Voice in January was a worldwide initiative, and not only confined to China.

At the news conference, Talent Chairman Wu Hongliang said he hoped to extend the company's business scope with the help of The Voice of China, but did not release any details about the program.

Despite recent developments, Star China said it will continue to produce the show, but with a localized version and original production. Lu Wei, chief inspector of the show, said changes would take place in such elements as the logo, theme song, stage design and some rules.

The Mandarin name of The Voice of China will be maintained since Star China has already registered it as a trademark, Lu said. The fifth season is due to air in July. The company announced the list of judges for the new season on Jan 31 and released a new program logo on Feb 17.

Lin Zaichuan, a senior television producer, said in a recent interview with Chengdu Economic Daily that for Talent, the purchase of the copyright of the program is more symbolic than practical. "As a listed company, it is more important for Talent to showcase its ownership of copyrights to get more interest in capital markets".

For Star China, Lin said losing the copyright might turn out to have positive effects. "After four seasons, the influence of The Voice of China has started to decline. If Star China could take advantage of this opportunity to launch a new brand program, it may witness record high ratings," she said.

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