Pūkeko Pictures CEO Clive Spink talks about the challenges in growing their entertainment production business into the Chinese market.
Pūkeko Pictures is an independent entertainment production company developing and producing world-class, multi-platform entertainment for a global audience. The company has produced television programmes seen in over 100 territories including Jane and the Dragon, The WotWots, Thunderbirds Are Go, Cleverman and Kiddets.
“Pūkeko Pictures has set out to build relationships globally to accomplish the goal of taking high quality content from New Zealand to the global market,” says CEO Clive Spink.
“As the largest single market in the world, China is a game changer for any industry but has become a key territory for media and entertainment industries.”
However finding a partner to work with in China was a challenge. The company aimed to find a Chinese partner that was interested in co-developing intellectual property (IP) that would work for audiences in both China and New Zealand.
More importantly, Pūkeko Pictures wanted a partner that “could expand beyond the TV programme and into location-based experiences, consumer products, publishing, digital outcomes, and augmented reality,” says Spink.“This partnership in China needed to be with a company that has similar aspirations and complementary business practices to Pūkeko Pictures. Synergy is key.”
Clive’s top tips for other Kiwi companies looking for partners in China
- Find partners who have the same values, aspirations and complementary businesses. Build strong mutually beneficial relationships with these partners that go beyond business, as this results in a greater understanding of each other.
- Find partners who enable you to work beyond western assumptions on what the Chinese market would respond to.
- Allow each partner to leverage their businesses’ unique skill sets while respecting the differences in each countries audiences.
Tips on targeting the China market
Pūkeko Pictures had been looking at the China market for some time. Co-founder Richard Taylor invested in and built Pūkeko Pictures’ relationship with China in nearly 20 years of travel, exhibitions, education seminars, demonstrations and hosting of high-level government and private contacts.
“Richard’s history in the region enabled Pūkeko Pictures to build on his established credibility and relationships,” says Clive.
However even with that head start, Clive and team have had to spend a large amount of time travelling.
“The time required on the ground surpassed our initial expectations but reaps dividends in building relationships. I personally visited 8 times last year along with Senior Management. You need to attend and participate in conferences, trades shows and government delegation visits to support your Chinese partners.”
One piece of advice Clive returns to during our interview is that while there is incredible scale, pace and resource in China, this can make it tempting to forget your strategy.
“There are opportunities popping up all the time and these can cause complications or distractions,” says Clive. “So it is important to build a partnership and relationships first.”
Government support makes all the difference in China
One element that Pūkeko Pictures were well aware of was how important having relationships at a Government-level was.
“In China the level of involvement with Government officials is very high and so having New Zealand Government support is very important,” says Clive.
“NZTE assisted us with furthering our connections in China, in business, local and central government. The government-to-government connections gave us access to key trade events, credibility in the marketplace and an opportunity to carry out the work China and New Zealand governments set out with establishing the film co-production agreement.”
“We also utilised the network of New Zealand Government support both locally and on the ground in the markets, such as the Trade Commissioners, NZTE and MFAT staff.”
But NZTE’s support included more than just in-market introductions. “NZTE, through the International Growth Fund, provided us with much needed resources and support that allowed us to spend significant time on the ground in China.
“This enabled us to do research, complete due diligence and develop relationships that are so vital in doing business in China, ultimately ensuring we found the right partners to enter into a strategic long-term business relationship,” says Clive.
What is next for Pūkeko Pictures in China?
“Pūkeko Pictures is producing Kiddets, the first co-production in children’s television between New Zealand and China. We launched the IP in Guangzhou in April 2017 to kick off TV show production and the location based experiences, consumer products, publishing, digital outcomes and augmented reality.”
“On the back of this relationship and IP we are now exploring a range of other IP with our partners as well as new business plans to retain IP ownership and have a long-tail business sustainability.”
So, it is a case of watch this space as Pūkeko Pictures build their brand and partners in China.
Clive Spink is the Chief Executive Officer of Pūkeko Pictures. He is responsible for the growth of the business and its development and production momentum. Clive was appointed to the role of Chief Executive Officer after a year as the company’s Chief Operating Officer