STX Entertainment Scores Ratings Hit With First TV Show Made for China

STX's Jason Goldberg, developer of 'Number One Suprise'

Developed by STX chief creative officer Jason Goldberg, 'Number One Suprise' was viewed nearly 300 million times when it premiered on Hunan TV and digital platforms in November.

STX Entertainment has scored a ratings hit with Number One Surprise, the company's first TV show developed for the huge but highly restricted Chinese market.

A celebrity-driven variety show, Number One Surprise was produced in partnership with China’s XG Entertainment. It premiered on Nov. 21 to nearly 300 million viewers on regional powerhouse Hunan TV, as well as on digital platforms PPTV and Mango TV.

Since its debut, the one-hour unscripted comedy has amassed more than 779 million total viewers. Currently, it is the no. 1 show on Hunan TV, China's second-most-watched channel behind only state broadcaster China Central Television's CCTV-1. 

Number One Surprise is the first TV show created by a U.S.-based entertainment company specifically for broadcast in China. It was developed by Jason Goldberg, chief creative officer of STX’s Digital and New Media Group. Goldberg is best known for co-creating the hit reality shows Punk’d and Beauty and the Geek.

Compared to the film sector, where Hollywood studios usually achieve 30 to 40 percent market share at the yearly box office, China's large but strictly controlled TV market is more difficult for Western companies to access.

Last summer, local regulators issued a strict curb on the number of imported shows and reality formats that China's popular satellite channels can air during primetime each year. Most U.S. TV companies have resorted to smaller licensing deals to Chinese digital and online platforms, but even there, restrictions are mounting.

STX's Number One Surprise represents a new approach — producing an original Chinese show with a local partner, rather than licensing a format or trying to secure distribution and build an audience for an existing U.S. hit.

Goldberg said developing and producing the show was "a genuine challenge for an American media company like STX Entertainment," but that the company's local Chinese partners provided "the experience and cultural insight necessary to pull this off."

STX also credited its local equity partners for helping it navigate entry into China's television sector. Chinese companies that hold stakes in STX include private equity firm Hony Capital, internet giant Tencent and PCCW, a Hong Kong-based telecom, media and IT solutions player.

STX also owns the rights to distribute the Number One Surprise format to overseas markets.