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UPDATED: November 6, 2013 NO. 45 NOVEMBER 7, 2013
Prime Time
TV programming from abroad reshapes the thinking of Chinese broadcasters
By Tang Yuankai

CONTESTANTS: If You Are the One, a dating game show based on the Australian show Taken Out, is one of the most viewed TV programs in Chinaon July 28 (CFP)

For instance, after The Voice of China finished its second season, Zhejiang Satellite TV will launch a variety show developed and produced in house. Jiangsu Satellite TV also has the same plan.

"The production guidelines from the original copyright owner only tell you the experience and the concept of a foreign show. To learn the method doesn't mean you have the production ability to match," said Lu Wei, Publicity Director of The Voice of China.

According to Liu Yuan with Jiangsu Satellite TV, China's set design is more luxurious than in other countries. However, there is still much for local broadcasters to learn from their foreign counterparts when it comes to issues such as the crowd-centric spirit and the meticulous attention to every detail.

"What we brought in is not only the rights to the franchise, but also guidance during production. It is a systematic learning process," Liu Yuan added.

Obviously, Liu Yuan is more optimistic about China's current situation. "In the past, China's homemade variety shows were maybe passable, but through learning from foreign productions, we have gradually gained the ability to produce our own exceptional shows. Sometime in the future, when our programs become more mature, we can export our own productions," he said.

Liu Yuan's confidence doesn't come from nothing. In August 2012, Paul Jackson, former Chairman of the UK's Royal Television Society, said that of all the blind dating programs that he had watched, the Chinese show If You Are the One was his favorite.

If You Are the One is broadcast by Jiangsu Satellite TV. Since it began broadcasting in 2009, the show has attracted great ratings and advertisement revenue.

It has already outperformed the Australian show that it is based on—Taken Out, Jackson said, adding that If You Are the One's success came from its attention to detail, especially those neglected by other Chinese programs.

Jackson expressed his desire to invite staff from Jiangsu Satellite TV to work in the UK.

Celebrity Battle, another popular show that is produced by Jiangsu Satellite Television, has become the first Chinese variety show to sell copyright overseas, which it achieved before its debut in China on October 11. The rights to Celebrity Battle were sold in a contract with Israeli production company Armoza.

Celebrity Battle has many unique elements according to Armoza. The music "battles," the focus on participants' childhood stories are the highlights of the program, said an official with Armoza.

In order to sell it on the global market, Armoza will make production guidelines according to standard procedures. The company will record all details of the program's production at Jiangsu Satellite TV, including competition rules, participants' selection criteria, as well as set design and lighting standards. Then the company will take these elements and make them suitable for global production.

"A program format has two qualities: It must be unique but also easily replicated," said Liu Xichen with Shixi Media. "But there are few unique TV programs in China. Usually, Chinese TV programs have simple elements and are not suitable for replication."

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