be hosts of the show.
Other online video platforms have already introduced talk shows.
Roast, a program inviting celebrated actors or singers to make fun of each other in the form of a talk show, premiered in 2016 on Tencent, another of the major Chinese online video platforms, and it has won a huge fan base.
“The most popular TV variety shows in China are about singing and dancing, and comedy was considered marginal,” says Ye Feng, head of the Shanghai-based independent program developer Fun Factory. His studio is the behind-the-scenes team of Roast and the upcoming SNL China.
However, he says the lack of an established model means there is more room for uniquely Chinese elements.
“Talk shows have a long tradition in the United States. But after we add some Chinese elements, they become a fresh and exciting genre for Chinese viewers, as they play with the language in an unprecedented way,” he says.
Consequently, he says the style of SNL China will be more down-to-earth for Chinese viewers.
Some other upcoming Youku programs offer even newer formats for Chinese viewers.
According to Song Binghua, a content manager from Youku, they will release a reality show on robot fighting next year, similar to the American TV series BattleBots.
In the program called This Is Bots, 48 competing teams from across the nation will design and operate remotecontrolled armed machines to fight in a combat arena for the title of ultimate champion.
“Robot fighting is a new thing in China,” Song explains. “Geeks usually don’t know how to act in front of camera, so the reality show will truly reflect young Chinese people’s aspirations, talent and positive energy.”
Founded in 2003, Youku is China’s earliest online video platform. Since becoming an arm of the Alibaba Group in 2015, Youku has nurtured a big ambition to localize the world’s most popular television genres for online viewing.
Also on the long list of Youku’s upcoming online offerings are dramas, many of which also borrow ideas from overseas, but tell their stories with Chinese characteristics.
For example, The Longest Day in Chang’an, a historical adventure and thriller set in Chang’an (today’s Xi’an, Shaanxi province), the Chinese capital during the Tang Dynasty (618-907), claims to be China’s 24 by depicting the events of a single day in one season.
Novoland: Eagle Flag, an epic fantasy drama set in a fictional time in ancient China, aims to be a Chinese version of Game of Thrones.
“The seasonal Chinese dramas will not just copy the models of American or Korean TV series, though,” Yang Weidong, head of Youku, said in a keynote speech in Shanghai.
“We need to respect the tastes of Chinese audiences.”
China’s online programs used to be widely criticized for using some eye-catching or even vulgar elements to attract viewers.
However, as China’s internet regulation over online programs strengthened, higher quality programs became a must.
For instance, the crime drama Day and Night premiered on Youku in August. It gained a rating of nine out of 10 points on Douban, China’s major film and TV rating website.
The show’s production team once revealed that each episode cost more than 2 million yuan ($300,000), even though the series needs no fancy visual effects.
In June, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television released a rule, stating that the same criteria will be used to approve online programs as those broadcast on TV.
“The time when online platforms could make use of different approval criteria has ended,” Yang says.
He says there were dozens of online video platforms in China more than a decade ago, but the number keeps shrinking and there are now only three online video platform colossuses — Youku, Tencent and iQiyi.
“In such intense competition, no one will waste energy on making a program if it cannot offer new aesthetics and storylines to catch the attention of audiences,” Yang says.
Contact the writer at wangkaihao@ chinadaily.com.cn
TheLongestDayinChang’an is one of the most anticipated dramas by Youku.