Is it over yet?

China b'caster weathering Olympics storm

What do you do if you're a provincial Chinese broadcaster trying to make a yuan during an Olympics you're not allowed to broadcast?

If you're Hunan Satellite TV, you do what you've always done: create edgy programming and offer it as an alternative to state-run China Central Television.

Hunan TV first gave Olympics host CCTV a run for its money in 2005 with the hit singing contest "Super Girl Voice." But with round-the-clock sports on seven CCTV channels with near-nationwide reach, CCTV is proving a tough act to follow during the Games.

"It's a lucky thing for local broadcasters that the Olympics are only 16 days," said Michael Zhang, Beijing-based managing director of ad buyer Mediacom China.

Li Hao, Hunan TV's deputy editor in chief, said that the station has not changed its programming strategy during the Games, continuing its focus on entertainment geared toward "young people and women."

But the station, chastised at times by media regulators for being too commercial, is again trying something different. For the Olympics, Hunan TV hired soccer commentator Huang Jianxiang, who left CCTV in disgrace in 2006 after blurting support for Italy over Australia in a World Cup qualifier.

Huang recently hosted the channel's "Olympics Talk Show" from behind a table on an apartment balcony, where he berated China's men's soccer team for being knocked out of competition early.

Another Hunan TV show that sprouted for the Games is "Happiness Run Forward," in which Chinese contestants dressed as superheroes brave an obstacle course. It proved one of Hunan's highest-rated programs in July and August, said Li Zhilan, deputy director of advertising.

But the Olympics nevertheless have had a negative impact on ads due to slashed budgets, Li said.

"When China wins more gold medals than anybody else, the country will be ready to go back to light entertainment," Zhang said. "Until then, local broadcasters are just going to have to be patient." (partialdiff)
comments powered by Disqus