Exclusive Interview with E! and China Digital Entertainment Pioneer Larry Namer

From Los Angeles to Beijing, Larry Namer, CEO/President of Metan Development Group is known as a digital entertainment pioneer who is leading Hollywood into China. When I interviewed Larry, this week, he explained, “It’s the largest growing box office in the world.” Metan’s Hello! Hollywood (China’s version of E!, and Larry founded E! Entertainment Television) has interviewed some of the world’s top stars including Zac Efron, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Steven Spielberg, Sylvester Stallone, and John Woo, just to name a few. To get an insider’s view, Larry shared insights on the digital entertainment culture in China, how Metan’s Hello! Hollywood broke all the social media records during the 2011 Oscars, an April TV pilot for Everyday Lohas (Life of Health and Sustainability), a new modern sitcom Return to Dai Fun Cun (Village of Good Fortune) in development and entertainment trends in China.

On Monday, The Hollywood Reporter predicted that the Chinese box office revenues will overtake the US in 10 years. With Avatar being number 1 in China for movie revenues, and a population of 1.3 billion (compared to 310 million in the US), everyone needs to think about how to market online and offline to China. Last year, Chinese box office revenue was up nearly 65% to $1.5 billion. Here’s why China’s digital entertainment space is growing so fast, and exclusive insights from Larry Namer.

1. China’s Social Media Culture – With 425 million using broadband already in China, Larry explained, “It gives you a much wider palet to paint.” Because of the numbers, there is much more advertising attention and dollars invested in social media marketing in China. Metan’s success is based on developing an overall story that gets delivered across multiple platforms (TV, internet, social media, mobile and games) with one voice and message. Larry added, “The product placement is so obvious in the US, but you can do different types of plots to make it more natural in a show.” In China, they also watch movies online, and there is no need to create 5-7 minute segments online. People under 30 do the bulk of their entertainment viewing on computers, and Larry explained that the mindset is “Watch what you want when you want online.”

2. Hello! Hollywood’s Oscar Social Media Success StoryHello! Hollywood is the Mandarin version of E!, and is the largest entertainment show in China reaching 270 million homes (Channel 18 in Los Angeles.) For the 2011 Oscars, Metan developed a first-time behind-the-scenes view for their Chinese audience through TV, internet, and mobile. Hello! Hollywood had a backstage reporter discussing the Red Carpet fashion, food and stars on QQ Messenger (the Chinese version of Twitter), along with celebrities (Eric Zuley, YangYang Cheng from Hello! Hollywood) micro-blogging. The Governor’s Ball coverage also featured a celebrity interview with Wolfgang Puck. Metan partnered with Tencent (China’s largest internet provider, QQ.com) and used 3 services to engage an audience online. Larry explained, “We had 3.2 million unique viewers during the Oscars, and a total of 10.2 million users during the week of the show.” The 3 QQ Instant Messenger services included QQ Video (http://bb.news.qq.com/), QQ Micro-blog (t.qq.com) and QQ Entertainment News Channel (ent.qq.com). The Tencent.cn Oscar page also received 90 million views for their videos and social media network. Wow, wow and wow!

3. Metan’s Future Health and Family TV Shows – Metan Development Group is in the process of developing two additional TV shows focused on health and family. Everyday Lohas (Life of Health and Sustainability) will be piloted on April 24th, and the show will be out this October. As Larry explained, “It’s about eastern and western medicine focused on the mind, body and spirit. It’s Dr Oz meets Oprah meets Dr Phil.” With China facing new health issues with western food chains such as McDonalds and Pizza Hut, this show has mass appeal. Social Media and mobile will be a huge part of the show, and Metan is already building mobile segments with quick daily health segments. Because family is a huge part of the Chinese culture, and especially taking care of elders, Return to Dai Fun Cun (Village of Good Fortune) is another Metan TV Project. This modern sitcom is slated for February 2012, and will highlight a guy who leaves Beijing to take care of his mother. The main character stays connected with friends in the city through the Internet and mobile.

When I asked Larry about the current trends in China, he shared, “It’s cyclical. Currently, there is a romantic comedy wave with about 30 Sex and the City type movies.” Larry added, “Young, independent women is a big theme for The People’s Republic of China.” Annie Wang is one of the role models for women in China. As a result of this trend, I definitely need to think about how to market my Great Life Great Love relationship advice brand to China (someone from China bought my ebook, How to Attract Great Love, and now it makes more sense.)