CCTV’s an­nual Spring Fes­ti­val show scram­bles to keep it­self fresh, Han Bing­bin re­ports.

China Daily (Canada) - - ONE WEEK FREE SMART EDITION -

As a small ges­ture to its ur­gent crav­ing for change, China Cen­tral Tele­vi­sion on Mon­day an­nounced that for its much-an­tic­i­pated an­nual Spring Fes­ti­val Gala, widely known as Chunwan, it will dou­ble the num­ber of hosts this year. The eight-peo­ple team will in­clude the gala’s first Uygur host, 32-year-old Nig­mat Rehman.

Known among his fans as Lit­tle Ni, Xin­jiang-born Nig­mat Rehman had a promis­ing start at CCTV by win­ning a host­ing con­test in 2006 and sub­se­quently be­com­ing a quizmaster for the chan­nel’s popular show, Happy Dic­tio­nary.

His boy­ish look and breezy style has made him a bud­ding star at the State net­work, which has strug­gled with an in­ad­e­quate sup­ply of popular young en­ter­tain­ment hosts. He cur­rently hosts sev­eral of CCTV’s hit shows, in­clud­ing SingMy Song and the Chi­nese ver­sion of the Ir­ish pro­gram Su­per­Star Ding­Dong.

Im­me­di­ately af­ter be­ing an­nounced as a Chunwan host, Nig­mat Rehman wrote on his mi­croblog, “To meet you at my best age means I didn’t let­my­self down”, which was seen by fans as ac­knowl­edg­ing the honor.

Cel­e­brat­ing the theme “fam­ily har­mony yields pros­per­ity”, this year’s Chunwan will be tele­cast live via CCTV and most of China’s pro­vin­cial satel­lite chan­nels for more than four hours on Feb 18, the Lu­nar New Year’s Eve. As usual it will fea­ture a va­ri­ety of per­for­mances such as song and dance, sk­its and magic shows.

Since the first Chunwan went on air in 1983, watch­ing it has be­come a tra­di­tion to cel­e­brate the Chi­nese New Year. Af­ter run­ning for 32 years, it re­mains the world’s long­est-run­ning and most­watched va­ri­ety show in tele­vi­sion his­tory. Au­di­ence rat­ings of Chunwan have re­mained above 30 per­cent in the past 14 years, ac­cord­ing to statis­tics from CSM Me­dia Re­search, and in 2014 more than 700 mil­lion peo­ple watched it live on TV and an­other 100 mil­lion watched it on­line.

How­ever, be­cause of its old­fash­ioned forms of per­for­mances and con­ser­va­tive choice of artists, Chunwan has of­ten been crit­i­cized for be­ing too se­ri­ous and straight-ar­row, and thus said to be los­ing young au­di­ences. Zheng Wei­dong, deputy man­ag­ing direc­tor of CSM Me­dia Re­search, says that in fact Chunwan’s au­di­ence pro­file has been steady since 2001. In 2014, view­ers be­tween the ages of 15 and 34 com­prised about 28 per­cent of Chunwan’s to­tal au­di­ence.

In the past decade, CCTV has been seen mak­ing clear at­tempts to ap­peal to the youth. Eye-candy pop stars, once re­port­edly deemed by CCTV to be too am­a­teur for such a tra­di­tional stage — es­pe­cially those ris­ing to fame through re­al­ity TV shows, have made regular ap­pear­ances on Chunwan in re­cent years.

This year, pop singer Zhang Liangy­ing will per­form on her third Chunwan, along­side her one­time fel­low con­tes­tant at Hu­nan TV’s Su­per Girl show and­now­su­per idol LiYuchun. Sur­pris­ing names on this year’s star list also in­clude Lu Han and Wu Yi­fan, both for­mer mem­bers of a South Korea-pro­duced boy band who’ve achieved enor­mous pop­u­lar­ity, es­pe­cially among the post-1990 gen­er­a­tion.

“Ev­ery year Chunwan fea­tures a cer­tain num­ber of new faces, to both give voice to tal­ented young artists and sat­isfy the needs of young au­di­ences,” 2015 Chunwan’s song and dance direc­tor Wang Gong­guan told Chi­nese me­dia.

Ap­pear­ances by for­eign celebri­ties are also part of Chunwan’s grow­ing ap­peal to young peo­ple, with ac­tor and singer Lee Min-ho be­com­ing the first South Korean pop icon to take the stage in 2014. For­eign stars who have pre­vi­ously per­formed at the Lu­nar New Year ex­trav­a­ganza in­clude Ce­line Dion and So­phieMarceau.

As more for­eign

faces ap­pear on the Chunwan stage, the gala is also look­ing to go out­side.

CCTV is ready to li­cense the rights to broad­cast Chunwan to for­eign TV sta­tions for free, said Zhao Wen­jiang, deputy direc­tor of CCTV pro­gram­ming cen­ter, at a news brief­ing onMon­day.

This on­go­ing global cam­paign for Chunwan also in­cludes a pro­gram pack­age, con­sist­ing of se­lected pro­grams from pre­vi­ous galas and three gala-themed doc­u­men­taries, which will be tele­cast in English, Hindi, Por­tuguese and other lan­guages across 24 TV net­works in 16 coun­tries.

The pro­grams will also be launched via so­cial me­dia plat­forms such as YouTube, Google Plus and Twit­ter to reach an ex­pected 230 coun­tries and re­gions, says Ma Run­sheng, as­sis­tant to the pres­i­dent of China In­ter­na­tional Tele­vi­sion Cor­po­ra­tion.

“Our pur­pose is to give over­seas Chi­nese and for­eign­ers who are in­ter­ested in Chi­nese cul­ture a chance to see Chunwan,” Ma says.

David Moser, scholar of Chi­nese cul­tural stud­ies and now a host with CCTV’s English chan­nel, was cho­sen to per­form in a skit by for­eign­ers at the Gala in 1999. He says that Chunwan is a valu­able win­dow for for­eign­ers to un­der­stand Chi­nese so­ci­ety bet­ter.

It has be­come even more so in re­cent years, as­many Chunwan pro­grams have be­come more so­cially rel­e­vant by en­com­pass­ing so­cial prob­lems and con­tro­ver­sies, he says. Con­tact the writer at han­bing­bin@ chi­


Left: Xin­jiang-born CCTV host Nig­mat Rehman will ap­pear at the Gala. Cen­ter: Zhu Xun, one of eight peo­ple to host this year’s show, speaks at a news con­fer­ence on Mon­day to an­nounce mem­bers of the host­ing team, Right: Singer Li Yuchun, who has re­hearsed for the Gala, per­forms at a Hu­nan TV show on Dec 31.

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