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
Prince and 3RDEYEGIRL are releasing Plectrum Electrum next month

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Carell in the poster for new film 'Foxcatcher'
filmExclusive: First look at comic actor in first major serious role
Arts and Entertainment
Madame Vastra and Jenny Flint kiss in Doctor Who episode 'Deep Breath'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Kingston Road in Stockton is being filmed for the second series of Benefits Street
arts + entsFilming for Channel 4 has begun despite local complaints
Arts and Entertainment
Led Zeppelin

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Radio presenter Scott Mills will be hitting the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce performs in front of a Feminist sign at the MTV VMAs 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has taken home the prize for Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Paige and Scott Lowell in Queer as Folk (Season 5)
tvA batch of shows that 'wouldn't get past a US network' could give tofu sales an unexpected lift
Arts and Entertainment
books... but seller will be hoping for more
Arts and Entertainment
John Kearns winner of the Foster's Edinburgh Comedy Award with last years winners: Bridget Christie and Frank Skinner
comedyJohn Kearns becomes the first Free Fringe act to win the top prize
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Sue Vice
booksAcademic says we should not disregard books because they unexpectedly change genre
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Muscato performs as Michael Crawford in Stars in Their Eyes

TV
Arts and Entertainment
‘Game of Thrones’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus brought her Bangerz tour to London's O2 Arena last night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
film
Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

    Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

    A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
    Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

    The science of herding is cracked

    Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
    Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

    This tyrant doesn’t rule

    It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
    Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

    From strung out to playing strings

    Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
    The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    A big fat surprise about nutrition?

    The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
    Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

    Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

    The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
    On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

    On the road to nowhere

    A Routemaster trip to remember
    Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

    Hotel India

    Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
    10 best pencil cases

    Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

    Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
    Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

    Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

    Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
    Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

    Pete Jenson: A Different League

    Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
    This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

    The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

    Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Britain’s superstar ballerina

    Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    Berlin's Furrie invasion

    2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    ‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

    Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis