Unless you’re knee-deep in the consumer electronics production market, chances are that you’ve never heard of a company called TCL. The China-based company is known for making TVs, mobile phones, air conditioners, and other such consumer products in its country and beyond.
Its current plan is to plunge into digital entertainment marketing business. Recently, TCL partnered up with Twentieth Century Fox as a sponsor to premiere its then-upcoming comic adaptation film X-Men: Days of Future Past all across the world, featuring stars like Hugh Jackman going on stage for promotional purposes. This big change in image and business will help build up the company’s user base to over a 100 million home subscribers and 100 million mobile users within the next five years.
Why on earth is a company like TCL, who was proclaimed the sixth-largest television producer in the world and 25th largest consumer electronics producer, doing something out of its comfort zone? Frankly because it wishes to position itself as a global leader in entertainment marketing. This is arguably a lucrative proposition since Hollywood films need sponsors and distributions from different channels in respective countries, particularly those who know the lay of the land and how it works in a particular area.
TCL Assistant President and Managing Director of Branding QC Liang clarified with e27 that the company is not splitting its revenue model from all of this; rather, it’s diversifying it. “(We’re) adding services that build on our existing strengths in digital devices. We used to be more manufacture-focussed. Because of the rise of internet apps and smartphone usage, we felt there was a big demand in high-quality content and service (hence our collaboration with Hollywood studios).”
The company has sponsored films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises in the past, but not to a global scale like the next X-Men film. TCL CEO E Hao said that this form of marketing is part of the company’s globalisation strategy to transform into a multimedia entertainment technology enterprise, not unlike what Chinese companies like Tencent is. “With Twentieth Century Fox and ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past’, we believe we have the perfect partner to reach out to a global audience and create an emotional connection with the younger generation.”
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A Fox representative said that X-Men: Days of Future Past has a worldwide appeal and is the sort of film that aligns well with TCL’s global ambitions, given the franchise’s reach and popularity. “We want to continue this strategy because it really helps us make the connection between TCL brand and young users,” said Liang. “These movies create a lot of buzz. (These superheroes) they represent American culture, but they can also be a good source of positive energy. The movies really stimulate confidence and courage, and that’s really important for the young generation because they are facing a lot of challenges in their lives and careers.”
This wasn’t TCL’s first dance with entertainment marketing however; back in 2013, TCL bought the naming rights for the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood (formerly named Mann’s Chinese Theatre) just so it can be made more authentic with Chinese elements. The company also established a joint venture with Imax to create high-end home theaters, with aims to target the premium consumer and charge its first product for US$250,000.
TCL won’t comment on the competition and even its revenues and net profit from this side of its business, but it plans to go after Samsung in terms of following its business model. “We think we’re more or less in the same portfolio,” said Liang. “We’re just as diversified, and we’re global. We actually work very closely with Samsung in China. We source from Samsung, and they also source from us with panels.”
As for the future? Well, the onus is still on Hollywood’s timetable and film release schedule. It’s only a matter of time until TCL continues doing digital entertainment promotion for the sake of reaching out to the biggest audience possible.