Tencent’s film unit heeds Beijing’s call for ‘social responsibility’ in shift to patriotic content

  • The move is another sign that China’s Big Tech firms are heeding Beijing’s request to pull back from heavily regulated sectors such as media, finance and content
  • Tencent is no stranger to patriotic content, producing 13 such titles last year, including the hit feature 1921 that celebrated the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party

Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings will reorganise its in-house film production unit to focus on “shouldering social responsibility” instead of making money, Chinese media outlet Jiemian reported.

Tencent Pictures, the film unit of China’s video gaming and social media giant, will be moved to the company’s Corporate Development Group from the Platform and Content Group as part of a reshuffle, according to the report.

The change means Tencent Pictures will shift away from investing in popular domestic television shows and Hollywood blockbusters, and instead produce more patriotic content that promotes “core socialist values” preached by the Chinese Communist Party.

The move marks another sign that China’s Big Tech firms are heeding Beijing’s request to pull back from heavily regulated sectors such as media, finance and content production.

Pony Ma Huateng, the founder, chairman and chief executive of Tencent, said the company would respond to the needs of the state and insist “on the use of technology for good”, according to a statement published by the Cyberspace Administration of China on Thursday.

Two Tencent sources, who declined to be named as the matter was not public, confirmed the reshuffle.

Tencent declined to comment on the report.

Tencent Film’s commercial production activities will be transferred to the company’s online publishing unit China Literature and the company’s production studio New Classics Media, while comics projects formerly under the film unit will be managed by Tencent Comics.

The current head of Tencent Pictures, Edward Cheng Wu, who is a vice-president of Tencent Holdings and CEO of China Literature, will continue to lead the film unit after the rejig, according to the report.

Tencent’s reported move comes amid Beijing’s ongoing scrutiny of China’s tech companies, which has targeted the sector with antitrust crackdowns as well as new laws and regulations on cybersecurity and data collection.

Formed in 2015, Tencent Pictures has been the main entertainment arm for the tech giant, producing some of China’s most popular TV series, including shows like Joy of Life and My Heroic Husband.

Tom Hardy in a scene from the Tencent Pictures-backed film Venom: Let There Be Carnage

 

In 2020, the film arm entered into joint productions with China Literature and New Classics Media, forming a “troika” that Cheng said would enable it to produce content similar to Disney.

In recent years, Tencent Pictures was active in producing and investing in Hollywood blockbusters such as the Terminator trilogy, announced in 2018, and the popular Marvel title Venom: Let There Be Carnage in 2021.

Tencent is also no stranger to patriotic film fare and TV series. In its 2021 line-up, the unit dedicated 13 out of its 70 new titles to the so-called main melody genre, which promotes Chinese nationalistic and socialist values.

One feature film, the Chinese Communist Party centenary film 1921, topped the local box office last year, while the TV series A Lifelong Journey, about the lives of three siblings in a farmer’s family over a period of 50 years, is currently airing in China.

Author: Iris Deng, SCMP

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