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Broadcasting & Cable
Broadcasting & Cable
Jon Lafayette

Smart TV Maker TCL Using AI To Create Original Content for TCLtvPlus Streaming Platform

Next Stop Paris.

TCL, the giant Chinese smart-TV maker, said it is using generative artificial intelligence to create original content for its streaming platform TCLtvPlus,

A special, Next Stop Paris, billed as an AI-Powered love story, is expected to debut this summer. It is the first program to emerge from the new TCLtvPlus Studios.

TV set and streaming device makers such as Roku, Vizio and Samsung have all started their own free ad-supported streaming services. Some of those advertising and data businesses have proved to be more profitable than manufacturing and selling hardware.

TCL was relatively late to start its platform and is counting on original programming to draw viewers to TCLtvPlus and build a brand image for TCL, Chris Regina, chief content officer for TCL, told Broadcasting+Cable.

(Image credit: TCL)

“I am excited by this opportunity to differentiate us with original programming. AIGC [artificial intelligence generated content] for us is the beginning. It’s a new approach and it makes sense coming from a tech and hardware company that that’s where we’re going to start,” said Regina, who was senior VP of original co-production at NBCUniversal and director of original drama series development at Netflix before joining TCL.

“Content is king as we’ve seen through history. People will watch shows and seek them out if there’s something that people are talking about,” he said.

“Our goal is to collaborate with Hollywood filmmakers and writers on the next projects ahead of us,” Regina said.

Limiting the use of AI was a key issue in last year’s strikes by the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA.

“We are not looking to replace people. This is still very much a human practice,” Regina said. “We’re using writers. We’re using actors and animators. We’ve been really fortunate to find a lot of great talent out there who weren’t working that have become part of our team.”

Regina said that TCLtvPlus Studios would not only be doing AI production. "We are looking at doing traditional content. So movies, scripted shows, unscripted content, specials. The next thing we have brewing isn't AI at all," he said.

TCL will be able to make its original content shoppable. And like Roku and Vizio, it plans to do branded content. "We have something coming downstream that does have a brand sponsor involved," Regina said. "I think AIGC gives us opportunities to create characters in our shows that can be brand ambassadors and influencers for advertisers."

Also in the works is creating mobile content, he added.

Next Stop Paris was developed by Regina and chief creative officer Daniel Smith.

To create the special, TCLtvPlus Studios is using human writers and human actors for motion capture and voices, as well as the latest in AI animation technology being employed by teams of artists in the U.S., U.K., and Poland.

“We’ve brought together a best-in-class global workforce who value the collaboration for more unique perspectives and diversity in the development space. We couldn’t be more excited about the future potential of this creative endeavor,” said Smith.

Next Stop Paris opens with a young woman on a train, who despite being heartbroken that her fiancé ran off with someone in her wedding party, has decided to go to her Paris honeymoon destination solo. While on board she meets a mysterious stranger, and their love story blossoms as they explore the city of lights together.  

A trailer dropped Friday.

TCL’s AI effort is led by Haohong Wang, general manager of TCL Research America.

“TCL is leading the future of television that will make watching content on TCLtvPlus a deeper, more dimensional experience, bridging the gap between rapidly changing tech to enhance storytelling,” said Wang. The launch of the TCLtvPlus Studio solidifies our commitment and investment in original production, providing an opportunity for exploration in genre bending formats that will help differentiate ourselves in a busy landscape.”

'Next Stop Paris' (Image credit: TCL)

TCLtvPlus provides TCL television owners with more than 325 free ad-supported streaming channels. TCLtvPlus recently added channels from the National Football League and A+E Networks.

"We're very intentional about what we're rolling on. We're being very strategic about promoting and grouping channels. We're trying to curate for the consumer because it can be overwhelming when there's just so many channels," Regina said. "We're trying to make it as easy as possible and bring them to content they're looking for."

TCLtvPlus launched two owned-and-operated channels in the last six months. One was TCL Holiday with female-driving Christmas movies. The other was TCL Romance. Both were successful, rocketing to the top of TCL's rankings, Regina said.

That's one reason why TCLtvPlus Studios went ahead with Next Stop Paris.

"There's an audience there that's watching our service and we see a hole in the marketplace with theatrical rom-coms not as prevalent," he said. "They're a guilty pleasure. You get under a blanket and watch in front of your TV set. So that's the driver."

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