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Billboard the Latest to Use Private Partners to Expand in China

By Karina Masolova

Billboard expands into China with a number of branded media platforms in partnership with Vision Music, a Chinese media company focusing on the entertainment, fashion, lifestyle and sports sectors. Under the agreement, Billboard will provide music content channels via multiple platforms, including print, internet and mobile. The announcement follows Billboard’s entry into the Philippines with fashion retail partner OXYGEN and brand-licensing initiatives for Billboard products, conferences and shows to be created in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The presence of local partners is particularly a boon in China, where the government sets controls foreign imports. One beneficiary is Paramount for feature film Star Trek Beyond, which launched the first ever Star Trek licensing program in China thanks the American company’s partnership with Alibaba Pictures Group, Mtime, and state-owned enterprise China Film Group. The growth of private sector involvement is one key reason why foreign companies are finding investment in the region easier.

China’s sheer size and rapid growth (the growth in licensed retail sales has outpaced GDP growth for at least the last five years) have contributed to making the country of the most sought-after for licensing. However, these same factors make licensing a difficult proposition. Foreigners who want to do business in China must exert considerable effort with no guarantee of returns. Despite a growing middle class, there still exists a significant rural population with little disposable income. Government monopolies, multiple regional languages, and trademark law that is favorable to Chinese citizens all contribute to delays in launching programs. And for years, investors have tensed at the country’s growing inflation and borrowing—China recently raised its debt load to about $26.6 trillion, stoking analyst fears of a crisis that could spill across borders and affect the rest of the world.

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