CBI News Wrap: Death on Reality Show, Short Video Developments

Godfrey Gao’s death has led to calls for more regulation of extreme challenge reality shows

News From China

China’s entertainment world was rocked by the death of model-actor Godfrey Gao on the set of an extreme sports challenge reality show. Gao collapsed around 2:00 a.m. on November 27 of apparent cardiac arrest while filming an episode of Zhejiang Television’s “Chase Me” (追我吧), which began airing earlier in the month. The incident has drawn heavy scrutiny to the harsh production practices of Chinese reality shows, which often include round-the-clock schedules, and, in the case of sports shows, increasingly dangerous stunts. Filming on the series has been halted in the wake of Gao’s death, and a broader crackdown on this genre of programming would not be surprising. Zhejiang TV has come under fire for its history of safety issues, including the 2013 drowning death of an assistant on “Splash!” (中国星跳跃), frequent accidents on the set of the popular “Keep Running” over the years, and reports of celebrity exhaustion on the set of “Chase Me.” One industry veteran attributed the dangerous conditions in part to market demands from brands seeking to reach millennial and Gen Z audiences that are drawn to celebrity adventure shows, and the high demand for celebrity participation means that many stars are overbooked on various projects, requiring producers to film 24-7. 

Short-video app Kuaishou is reportedly partnering with Alibaba’s Taobao to build a short video e-commerce platform. The two sides will collaborate on some content, while Kuaishou will offer additional content support and its huge user base, with Taobao providing products and the channel for sales conversion. 

Also on the short-video front, dramatic series presented in mini-episodes are emerging as a trend that fits with the media consumption habits of young viewers. The typical show in this genre is filmed in portrait mode for vertical viewing, with episodes featuring a complete storyline over just three to four minutes. One leading example is “Pig One Egg’s Boring Life” (朱一旦的枯燥生活), which has more than 7 million fans across various platforms (including Douyin, Kuaishou, Bilibili, and Weibo), inspiring further content creation as viewers create memes based on the show’s unpretentious wealthy characters. Kuaishou and iQiyi are among the platforms seeking to engage in more professional creation of short-video dramas.

Douyin has officially launched a Creator Academy on its app to help its users improve management of their content. Accessed through a user’s personal page, the Creator Academy offers a series of tutorial videos on topics relevant to creators such as platform policies, production advice, marketing tips, fan growth, and opportunities for revenue.

Tmall and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum joined forces on an exhibition and pop-up shop at Shanghai’s K11 mall. The installation combines art and commerce through the V&A’s collaborations with domestic fashion brands 4inlook and Basto, as well as Twinings Tea and Lomography, with products that reflect China’s cultural heritage. The V&A has been working with the Shanghai-based licensing firm Alfilo Brands to develop goods tailored to Chinese tastes. 

Tencent Games and travel site Mafengwo are collaborating on a cultural journey through China. Seven Tencent games were matched with seven cities in China to encourage participants to experience the history and culture of the locations through gaming, and Tencent will also produce additional content to promote both the games and cities’ attractions. 

The popular Netease game Fantasy Westward Journey (梦幻西游) partnered with the Dunhaung Museum on a campaign to appeal to younger audiences. The game’s classic character Wu Tianji was named a virtual guardian/spokesperson for the museum, Fantasy Westward Journey created an interactive WeChat game featuring the culture of Dunhuang, and a new theme song was released for the campaign.

News in English

  • Didi Chuxing is asking its ride-hailing fleets in Shanghai to install screens in their cars to display ads. Such screens could also provide a distribution channel for content developed by Didi through its recently established media company. Technode
  • E-commerce platform Pinduoduo is reportedly developing livestreaming capabilities for its social commerce-focused app, with job postings for “live streaming celebrity manager” and “creative video manager” belying the company’s official denials of the plan. Pandaily
  • Another e-commerce platform, the fashion-oriented Xiaohongshu, is also emphasizing content-driven commerce. It announced the launch of a creator center and is testing livestreaming, a product recommendation function and a brand cooperation platform. KrAsia
  • 2019 was a big year for these half a dozen male celebrities, who are among China’s most valuable stars for brands. Radii
  • A look at Huya, China’s second-largest livestreaming game platform after Douyu. Interestingly, gaming giant Tencent has major stakes in both companies. Abacus
  • Hunan Television President Chen Ding discusses the broadcaster’s focus on developing original IP, its production processes, goals for working with international writers on scripted series, and more. World Screen
  • A report on the state of Chinese reality shows in the second half of 2019 notes that it’s difficult for a series to obtain both a large viewership and strong critical reviews. GroupM

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