The Shanghai TV Festival (STVF) has returned in-person for its 28th edition, bringing back the prestigious Magnolia Awards and the TV market from June 19-23 on the heels of sister event, Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF).

Shanghai is back to pre-pandemic form, hosting two consecutive high-profile film and TV events in China’s most dynamic cosmopolitan city and financial centre. As SIFF drew to a close after 10 days of festivities (June 9-18), the curtain was raised for STVF, held mainly at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre (SEC).

Prominent guests were spotted at the opening ceremony on June 19, including STVF best actor winner Huang Zhizhong as the guest host and actress Yan Ni as the Chinese TV drama overseas promotion ambassador. Over the course of three days, Chinese sales and production companies are showcasing their latest hot projects at the TV market held at SEC, where seven forums and three masterclasses are also presented.

The various forums explore the trends, challenges and opportunities of Chinese and global TV content, with guest speakers including Chen Xiao from iQiyi, Steve Crabtree from BBC Studios, Cui Chao from Tencent Online Video, Karen Fu from Huace Group and Ryota Kotani from NHK Enterprises.

The three masterclasses focus on TV drama, documentary and animation. The masterclass speaker for TV drama is renowned film and TV scholar Hu Zhifeng, a former vice president of the Beijing Film Academy and professor of the School of Arts and Media at Beijing Normal University. He heads up this year’s Magnolia Awards as jury chairman for the drama category.

Since its launch in 1986, STVF has grown into a leading platform for the exchange of local and international TV content in Asia. The Magnolia Awards is a pioneering international TV awards in China and has become even more competitive with nearly 1,900 entries from 49 countries and regions accumulated over two years as a result of last year’s cancelled edition.

Hu says: “A successful TV series usually has great artistic values and commercial appeal and can spark heated discussions among the audiences. Social issues are also at the heart of many popular dramas.”

The Magnolia Awards comprise four categories, from TV drama (in Chinese and international categories) and documentaries to animations and variety shows. In view of the increasing popularity of streaming productions, content made for streaming services are eligible for the awards for the first time, enabling them to compete alongside traditional TV channels.

Some 22 dramas are up for best Chinese TV series, several of which are produced for streaming platforms such as Beyond, Reset and A Dream Of Splendor by Tencent Video, Enemy, The Wind Blows From Longxi and Ordinary Greatness by iQiyi, and Remembrance Of Things Past by Mango TV.

Among the popular programmes, Reset is a time-loop thriller that has been viewed over 1.9 billion times; family drama A Lifelong Journey set a new viewership record for CCTV-1 primetime drama in nearly eight years; and cop crime thriller The Knockout broke new records for CCTV-8, with more than 4 billion viewership. In addition, Bright Future is a key project by China’s National Radio and Television Administration and starring Hu Ge, who was named best actor at this year’s SIFF, while China’s first sci-fi drama Three-Body is adapted from Liu Cixin’s Hugo award-winning novel and drew 680,000 online viewers on its premiere day.

To reach out to the public, STVF offers a carefully curated selection of 35 free screenings. The public is encouraged to step out of their house and watch the programmes at 18 iconic cultural venues such as the China Art Museum, Power Station of Art, and The Inlet across 16 districts in Shanghai.

The screening list includes Chinese animations Yao-Chinese Folktales and The Ravages of Time as well as the local premiere of foreign documentaries such as Seven Days On Mars from the UK and Karaoke Paradise from Finland. Audiences will get to meet and talk to local and international filmmakers such as two-time Oscar-winning British documentary director Malcolm Clarke of A Long Cherished Dream.

Winners of the Magnolia Awards will be announced on June 23 during STVF’s closing ceremony at Mercedes-Benz Arena, formerly Shanghai World Expo Cultural Centre and now a popular venue for international events.