Why Israeli Media Moguls are Looking to Ride the Chinese Dragon
As one of the emerging economic superpowers of the twenty-first century, for the last decade, Israel has been making headlines around the world in fields as diverse as consumer technology, medical devices, and security.
One of the country’s lesser-known successes has been its media sector, with Israeli TV formats and drama series taking the world by storm. The hit Showtime series “Homeland” was based on the Israeli series “Prisoners of War,” while strong links between Hollywood and the Tel Aviv media scene, known as the “Branja,” have seen increased levels of Israeli investment in U.S. movies, as well as the rise to international prominence of Israeli stars like Gal Gadot.
But another, far larger player is now a force to be reckoned with within the U.S. movie industry – the People’s Republic of China.
For years, Hollywood has set its sights on the Chinese market – the question said to be asked by studio executives about every new blockbuster release is, ”will it appeal to the average Chinese fourteen-year-old?”
The Chinese domestic movie market, meanwhile, has exploded in recent years, and is set to surpass the U.S. by 2017, with projected revenues of $10.3 billion. Chinese-based investment firms now finance numerous Hollywood films, bypassing Beijing’s annual quota of 34 foreign movies, making more Hollywood-produced films available in China.
That’s seen as a major opportunity for Israeli venture capitalists, who already enjoy strong links with China. Israel’s legendary Technion Israel Institute of Technology last year opened a campus in Guangdong, while this year saw the inaugural China-Israel High-Tech Investment Forum in Tel-Aviv, focusing on Mobile Internet and AI & VR, among other fields.
Two of Tel Aviv’s most forward-thinking venture capitalists, tech titans Haim Toledano and Saar Pilosof, are now working towards incorporating China’s fast growing motion picture market into their global agenda.
Known as pioneers in the field of online entertainment, Toledano and Pilosof take a more nuanced view of the Chinese movie market, pointing to the emergence of China’s vast new middle class.
“The Chinese consumer is far more sophisticated than many people seem to accept, and the most successful films to come out of China in recent years have been lavish productions with strong historical and cultural appeal within the country and beyond,” explains Toledano.
“We intend to leverage our wide range of connections, our deep knowledge of international audiences, and our expertise in building innovative online platforms to invest in film productions with the most powerful international appeal.”
The media moguls are already exploring office locations in Beijing, and meeting with potential Chinese partners. As every serious player in “Start-up Nation” is fond of saying, for Toledano and Pilosof, “the sky is the limit.”