Both parties acknowledged that the decision to make the seemingly unspectacular tomato the subject matter was a surprisingly easy one to make. Luo says both development heads met and pinned down the topic, in one seating, without any struggle. Solomon calls it was “an almost instant agreement.”

“Chinese audiences love the tomato. It has broad appeal across the country,” says Luo, who believes the universality of the topic will sustain interest. Luo says that the documentary will air on both CCTV 1 and CCTV 9 when completed, and there are plans to include more specialty channels on CCTV if the ratings indicate appeal.

On possibly dealing with media regulator SARFT’s restrictions, Solomon is not unduly concerned.

“Universen is famous for its wildlife programming. Wildlife films tend not to be controversial. We make beautiful films with strong stories and fabulous piuctures. I’m absolutely sure that we’ll be able to do better with a partner like CCTV-9,” says Solomon. “I look forward to the conversations with SARFT. I hope that we do have lively discussions with the Chinese government but I do think we can find lively topics that won’t require such “lively discussions” as I think we’re going to find lots of joint topics that will appeal to both audiences. We want to know what interests the Chinese audiences. Part of it is finding out what works.”

Signatories at the CCTV-ORF MOU ceremony, from L-R, Head of Universum Andrew Solomon, Richard Grasl, ORF’s Chief Financial Officer, Ming LUO, Vice President, CCTV, and Liu Wen, Managing Director, CCTV.