China’s Bilibili and France’s Arte Strike ‘Deep Med’ Co-Production Deal

Chinese video streaming platform Bilibili and European specialty broadcaster Arte are co-producing documentary feature “The Deep Med.” The underwater film is produced by French company LGB and underwater photographer Laurent Ballesta.

The film involved 28 days of filming at depth and documents one of Arte’s regular scientific expeditions.

“Revealing vast unexplored ocean territories, luxurious gardens and the finest tropical coral reefs, The Deep Med takes viewers to the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. (The) group challenged themselves to yet a new world record: spend 28 days at a depth of 120 meters, pushing the limits of the human body to reveal the luxuriant and unknown depths of the Mediterranean Sea,” the companies said.

The agreement was unveiled at Sunny Side of the Doc, a French industry event and documentary marketplace. The completed film will be ready to air later this summer, with Bilibili handling exclusive rights in mainland China.

“Bilibili viewers were particularly entranced by French documentary offerings. “From ‘Oceans,’ ‘Le Peuple Migrateur’ and ‘La Marche de l’Empereur,’ Chinese audiences have fallen in love with the unmistakably French style of nature documentaries,” Bo Zhang, Bilibili’s head of international co-productions, said. The film’s conservation message is also expected to play well.

Bilibili has evolved from a focus on short form, comics and gaming into a broader remit. As it has done so it has attracted investment from high profile industry investors. Alibaba last year bought an 8% share stake. Earlier this year Sony paid $400 million for a 5% position.

Documentary has become a key element in the company’s original content strategy. In the first quarter of 2020, views of documentaries on Bilibili increased by nearly 100% compared to the same period last year. As of Q1 2020, the number of documentary viewers on Bilibili exceeded 83 million, the company said.

Deals with other high-profile factual companies include one with Discovery Channel to co-produce “The First Man Out of China,” a special edition of the popular survival series “First Man Out”; a distribution agreement on National Geographic’s wildlife film “The Hidden Kingdoms of China,” and a package of 85 titles, and nearly 400 hours, of National Geographic documentary series. Some 35 of them will be exclusive to Bilibili within China.