'Amazing Race' Is the Latest Western Format Sprinting Ahead in China
The reality show features big names running across the continents
China is getting ready for the frantic tourist reality show The Amazing Race, just the latest in a series of formats from the U.S. and elsewhere to make a significant impact on the world's fastest-growing TV market.
The Chinese version of the show is set to debut on Shenzhen TV on Friday and features celebs such as Jordan Chan, Ekin Cheng and Zhang Tielin.
The Amazing Race is an enduring favorite in the West — it is entering its 25th season in the U.S. on CBS and has won Emmys over the years — but in China it's a novelty, despite occasional similar formats that have made their way onto Chinese TV screens.
China's number of outbound tourists reached 97.3 million in 2013, and is expected to reach 200 million in 2020, and shows like Amazing Race resonate with the country's burgeoning wanderlust.
On the Chinese version of the show, eight groups of stars crossed three continents and five oceans, and all of them claim to have been somewhat traumatized by the experience.
"If I'd seen the show beforehand, I'd never have joined," Tielin joked at a news conference.
Hong Kong actor Wallace Chung added that he had no idea how he'd lost control until he saw the show later.
The show has some of the same elements as the U.S. version, focusing on traveling skills and getting there on time, but it also has Chinese elements, and the show already has 246,173 fans signaling their excitement at the show's arrival.
Some of the comments online about the show were less than enthusiastic.
One user who goes by Wang910780 said the show could never beat the hugely popular Dad, Where Are We because Shenzhen TV was not that popular.
Other commenters said they were fans of the U.S. version and were looking forward to the Chinese version.
"It all depends on who the stars are and how popular they are," wrote the user Inn8223.
Others were interested in seeing the differing responses.
Zoujin xing Shidai from Sina Weibo wrote: "I am a big fan of the American version of Amazing Race. I look forward to the Chinese version," he said.
Meanwhile, Chinese versions of other Western shows are in the works.
At MIPCOM in Cannes, Shine International announced a deal with Hunan TV, in association with Twofour, to develop a Chinese adaptation of The School set to air in the new year.
Created and produced by Twofour, the U.K. versions of The School, titled Educating Essex, Educating Yorkshire and Educating the East End, have delivered a peak audience of 4.8 million viewers, and the second series was U.K. network C4’s highest-rated series of 2013.
"We have very high expectations for The School as the original U.K. series has achieved such a success," said Beryl Yan, head of program strategy and international business at Hunan TV.
"The format itself is a breakthrough in telling real-life stories and sheds light on how the future of our nation is being educated. A group of in-house production teams are currently working on different ideas of localization and we expect to launch the Chinese version next year," she said.
Shine International already has a number of successful shows currently airing in China, including Big Town Dance (Yunnan TV) and Celebrity Masterchef on Jiangsu TV in partnership with 3C Media.
The company recently announced it was producing The Biggest Loser in partnership with Screen Media.
There were also reports that DreamWorks was in talks with a Beijing-based production company to produce a slate of original online content based on the online sensation Surprise, a vastly successful show made by the online giant Youku Tudou and Unimedia.