MTV, Motorola get into China concerts


BEIJING -- Viacom's MTV and Motorola are pumping up their brands in China in July by syndicating a trio of rock concerts co-produced by the satellite channel of East China's Zhejiang Television (ZJTV), one of 40 provincial broadcasters that will team to air the shows to more than 380 million TV households.

Featuring Taiwanese pop idol-turned-actor Jay Chou ("Curse of the Golden Flower") and Cui Jian, known to some as China's Bob Dylan, the three concerts, held June 22-24, had an anti-lip-synching theme.

"We make a little money from this, but it's more about establishing our music credibility," said Li Yifei, Viacom's chief rep in China, where MTV reaches 13 million households on its own.

In China's increasingly celebrity-obsessed culture, which last year devoured an "American Idol" knockoff called "Super Girl Voice," MTV wants to remind Chinese kids that musicianship should be the source of rock stardom, Li said.

"It's about getting back to true music," Li said in an interview.

Cui Jian, best known in the West for his 1989 Chinese Democracy movement anthem "Nothing to My Name," has long criticized Chinese musicians for the common practice of lip-synching at live shows.

Working closely with Michael Tatleman, president of co-sponsor Motorola in North Asia, Li could expand Chinese awareness of MTV and give the world's first iTunes-enabled phone a real push in a market that's home to more mobile users than there are U.S. citizens.

Tickets for the concerts in Qingdao, Hangzhou and Chengdu were not sold. Rather, they were given away in pairs to music fans who bought Motorola's iTunes-ready ROKR phone for an average cost of about $329 each.

While the ROKR is out of the reach of most Chinese consumers, Motorola has ample chance to expand given the 400 million-plus Chinese mobile subscribers. And concert emcees and VJ hosts regularly talk about MTV and Motorola during the shows.

The MTV-MOTO concert in the port of Qingdao in North East China saw 50,000 guests pack an outdoor venue June 22. The concert will be broadcast July 21 to a potential audience of 150 million TV households in Central China via Hunan Satellite TV, creator of "Super Girl Voice."

Also set to broadcast the anti-lip-synching shows this month or in early August, Li said, are state-run China Central Television 3, which reaches about 200 million households, and the lead broadcaster in Chongqing, Southwest China's provincial municipality of more than 31 million people. Dates for these shows have not been set.

The co-production of the three concerts, which were held from June 22-24, saw ZJTV providing the equipment, the licensing and the manpower, while MTV provided the on-camera talent and the production flash it has been known for since its founding in 1982 as well as arranging ad sponsorship.

"It was an expertise-sharing exercise, too," MTV's Li said.