updated 27 Aug 2014, 07:10
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Thu, Aug 14, 2014
China Daily/ANN
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Celebrity designs now on sale
by Han Bingbin

Chinese TV stations have long believed that the bulk of their viewership was people past their prime with little income, a segment fashion shows were rarely willing to touch.

But all that might change with The Goddess' New Dress, a reality show that seeks to celebrate fashion and beauty. The show recently announced its landing on Shanghai-based Dragon TV where it will premiere on Aug 23.

The programme, which will also run on online platforms Youku and Tudou, owes its origin to similar shows in the West, while betting its success on China's Internet craze.

In each episode, six female celebrities will make clothes under given themes with the help of professional designers. They will then model those clothes at a final runway show to win orders from shop owners at, one of China's largest e-commerce sites.

"Our rule is that all designs should be practical and priced under 500 yuan (S$101). I can imagine the excitement the audience will feel when they see clothes that they can wear on models too," says Li Hongshan, chief brand officer of Guangzhou-based media company Blue Flame, that is producing the show.

The handpicked designs will be immediately put into mass production. Within 24 hours of airing an episode, the new dresses will hit online stores nationwide, according to him. "We want to draw back young audiences who now spend most of their time online."

Although New Dress isn't completely a new idea, its collaboration with new age media has got the industry excited as traditional TV channels are still seen to be short on creativity. In a market where more than 40 satellite broadcasters are competing for attention from the same audiences and advertisers, conservative senior TV management have been less willing to risk new ideas for fear of letting ratings and income fall, says Kim Gordon, founder of Imaginement China.

Having previously worked with the BBC, Gordon's company specializes in training Chinese TV producers in creativity. His clients include producers from leading channels such as Hunan and Jiangsu TV.

The situation means a tested formula is still a safer card to play. That is why Chinese TV channels are constantly inspired by overseas programme formats, such as the Voice of China series that have already been tested in other markets and often mean a better chance of success.

Another problem is that when a format proves successful on a leading Chinese channel, other networks tend to buy a similar format or imitate the idea.Over the past year, for instance, 10 comedies and 12 singing competitions have hit Chinese TV screens. This has resulted in audience boredom, highlighting TV channels' urge to present shows that focus on domestic demand and reflect the local social scene.

As a step in that direction, Jiangsu and Tianjin TV have started to solicit programming ideas from the public. Entries to Jiangsu have a chance to not only be made into a real show but also win an award worth about 1 million yuan.

While State-owned TV stations still have managerial limitations and are less tolerant of failure, Dragon TV's Bao Xiaoqun tells Beijing-based Netease News, they choose to tap market potential by working with independent companies, which are more flexible and better at taking risks.

In mature markets, such as the United Kingdom, the processes of making programs and broadcasting them were separated back in the 1980s. In China, private companies were given the rights to TV programme production in 2004.

A growing number of independent companies have been quick to gain recognition among broadcasters and audiences since 2012, when Canxing Productions successfully made the Voice of China for Zhejiang TV.

But for these independent houses, a highly risky financial scheme seems to be also deterring them from embarking on new paths.

According to Peng Kan from format broker Legend Media, in some cases, a production company is given a certain budget that includes their profit, to make a show. But TV stations often request many changes once the production begins, forcing the independent makers to use up their potential profit margins.

Production companies are also often required to sign a contract promising a certain audience rating, says Li of Blue Flame. Failing to succeed the ratings chart means "the company ends up losing business", he says. "It's too early to call New Dress a success. We still have risks ahead."

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