China broadcasters strike gold with foreign formats

Jin Lei directed several copycat reality shows before striking gold with "China's Got Talent", and its success has him convinced that real deal foreign formats can drive local TV's development.

Shanghai Media Group's "China's Got Talent" - a licensed version of the British hit that made music stars of Paul Potts and Susan Boyle - has smashed ratings records in China.

The success of the show, which found its own unlikely star in winner Liu Wei - an armless pianist who plays with his toes - also marks a shift in China's television industry from copying to buying foreign copyrights.

"Our production team had tried many kinds of "Idol"-style selection shows in the past," said Jin, who was previously best-known for his 2007 show "My Hero". "Now, my team and I hate copycats."

After years of under-investing in content, China's increasingly market-oriented state-run broadcasters face growing competition from the Internet and each other to woo viewers and advertisers with more lively fare.

China Central Television (CCTV) has recently acquired its first foreign format, Japanese game show "Hole In The Wall".

Shanghai Media Group (SMG), meanwhile, also bought an "Amazing Race" franchise and comedian Ricky Gervais says a Chinese version of "The Office" is in the works.

SMG's Dragon TV paid one million yuan (150,000 dollars) for the rights to "China's Got Talent" for three years, Jin said, adding that Proctor & Gamble, the show's global sponsor, helped encourage the deal.

"Some small satellite TV stations had tried to copy the show before, but none were successful because they only copied the face, not the mind - and especially not the heart," Jin said.

He said the production handbook, known in the industry as a "bible", supplied by the show's creators FremantleMedia enabled major leaps in story-telling, production techniques and overall quality.

"We followed everything the bible said. For each contestant, from the start when he or she filled in the application until he or she left the show, there were always ten cameras shooting them," he said.

Viewers responded by making it SMG's highest-rated show ever, with the October 12 finale capturing 5.7 percent of the nationwide audience and a 34.9 percent share in Shanghai.

It even supplanted CCTV's Lunar New Year's Eve Gala - a heavily patriotic extravaganza - as the year's most-watched show in the city.

Buying the rights - and the show bibles - is key, said Li Yi, the executive at SMG's International Channel Shanghai (ICS) in charge of "The Amazing Race: China Rush".

"Buy the copyright and learn the essence from that. That's very important," Li said.

SMG approached Disney, which owns the rights to "The Amazing Race", last year about producing an English-language China-based franchise for the one-year countdown to this year's World Expo, Li said.

When it became clear Disney needed longer to negotiate terms, ICS told Disney it would produce a similar 2009 programme, "Shanghai Rush", as they worked towards a deal for this year.

The two sides eventually worked out a deal and the Disney-licensed version that debuted in August drew an audience three times as big as "Shanghai Rush", Li said.

Li declined to discuss terms but called it "very reasonable", with Disney holding the rights to sell the ICS show outside China. Disney saw it as part of a long-term China investment, he added.

The deal brought in Disney's expert advice on travel planning, adjusting games to contestants' strengths and maximising suspense, he said.

"One thing was very impressive: they gave the very huge amount of manpower required. That's very important, so we could see a very big difference between the West and China's TV industry," Li said.

The result was ICS's most expensive programme yet, but also one of its most profitable, as it used the foreign brand name to even attract overseas advertisers.

With advertising revenues at 114.74 billion yuan, according to Beijing RIC Information Consulting, China's television industry outstrips the country's film box office, which is expected to gross a record 10 billion yuan this year.

Programmes like "China's Got Talent" are also helping state-owned broadcasters claw back viewers lost to the Internet.

"China's Got Talent" lured Web-surfers back to TV screens, according to a pilot project by ratings agency the Nielsen Company that monitors TV and Internet use in 300 Shanghai homes, said Jed Meyer, Nielsen's managing director of media services in China.

"TV was drawing attention away from the Internet as the telecast went on," Meyer said. "It shows TV is still a very powerful medium."

Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

music
Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

film
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
News
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
people
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

    Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

    His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
    'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

    Open letter to David Cameron

    Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
    Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

    You don't say!

    Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
    Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

    So what is Mubi?

    Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
    The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

    The hardest job in theatre?

    How to follow Kevin Spacey
    Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

    Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

    To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
    Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

    'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

    The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
    Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

    This human tragedy has been brewing for years

    EU states can't say they were not warned
    Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

    Women's sportswear

    From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
    Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

    Clinton's clothes

    Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders