Media and Advertising
Posted by Jeremy Goldkorn on Wednesday, August 24, 2005 at 6:02 PM
The five semi-finalists
By Ben Marcom and Jeremy Goldkorn
Chao Nu, the abbreviation of Chao Ji Nu Sheng — 超级女声) or Super Voice Girls, has entered the Chinese vocabulary. It's the name of a televised singing competition similar to American Idol, produced and broadcast by the state-owned Hunan Province Satellite Television Station. The program's full name is Mengniu Yoghurt Super Voice Girls — Mengniu being one of China's leading dairy product brands.
The TV program has sparked a nationwide mania. According to Beijing News (August 20), Super Voice Girls has attracted more than 150,000 young female participants while more than 20 million people watch the program every week, comprising more than 10% of all TV viewers during the program's time slot. More than 100 newspapers have written extensive stories about Super Voice Girls; Google returns more than a million results for a search on the program's Chinese name.
The first season of Super Voice Girls aired in 2004. The final of the second season — in which three finalists fight it out to become the champion Super Voice Girl — will be broadcast this Friday August 26, on Hunan Satellite TV, as well as several local terrestrial channels. The finalists are Zhou Bichang, Zhang Liangying and Li Yuchun.
Super Girls sing for their suppers
The 2005 competition started with a primary round involving 10,000 girls, each of whom only had 30 seconds to perform. TV viewers voted by sending SMS messages to the TV station. After the primary round, each program became a knockout competition along familiar reality TV lines.
One of the reasons the program has been so popular is that there were almost no requirements for registration: any female who could sign up, regardless of where they came from, how they look and how they sing. “The low threshold for registration enables more and more girls with dreams to find a stage of their own”, said Wang Ping, the general director of the program. For participants, the most attractive part of Super Voice Girl is that after the competition, the program’s sponsors will invest in the winners, promising them album deals and roles in TV series.
The key players in this mass carnival
Li and Zhou are similar in their boyish images, performance skills, and singing styles. They are also both very popular with audiences. Li always performs male vocals and has consistently got the highest numbers of SMS votes. He Jie has stage presence, but her singing performance is average. He Jie has also been said to have already "made a market value for herself of 1 million yuan (USD123,000)". Zhang Liangying is considered to "sing with her soul" and is good at performing English songs. She also has a beautiful face, sexy figure and feminine personality which is a big plus for her. Ji Minjia has the greatest vocal range, but her lack of stage charisma mades her the least popular amongs the show's SMS voters.
Yu Mi (玉米 — corn): Li Yuchun's fans
The fans have been crazily supporting their idols, arguing with each other and slandering their competitors. There have been scandalous stories about the competition's judges, allegations that Li Yuchun is a lesbian, and enough gossip online to keep Super Voice Girls at the top of Baidu's most popular search terms for weeks on end.
Words made popular by Super Voice Girls
Hai Xuan (海选): The primary election, i.e. the initial competition involving 10,000 girls.
PK: Player kill, the term used by China's online game players to mean games where you kill the other players. PK has been used on Super Voice Girls to refer to the knockout part of the show: after a round of singing, the competitor who gets the fewest SMS votes and another one who judges decide has made too many mistakes are sent to the PK Stage (PK台); one is eliminated in a one-to-one competition. In last Friday's semi-final, Ji Minjia and He Jia were kicked out after two rounds of PK.
The money makers
According to Sun Xianhong, vice president of Mengniu Milk Group, the sponsor of Super Voice Girls of this year, Mengniu spent 14 million yuan to get Super Girls' exclusive naming sponsorship rights, 15 seconds of advertising per program and other promotional opportunities. They think this investment is excellent value for money. Apparently, it increase Mengniu's brand awareness and raised sales of Mengniu yoghurt by 270%.
Another source of revenue for Hunan Satellite TV has been SMS charges. In the Chengdu competition alone, the best three singers received a total of 307,071 message votes, each message costing fans from 0.5 yuan to 3 yuan. According to the 21st Business Herald, income from message charges may account for 30 to 50 per cent of the total profits of the TV programme, even after a 15 per cent cut for the
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