22 February 2019

Hitting high notes with music reality TV

Gloria Tang is on a winner. The Hong Kong actress better known as GEM has become an instant celebrity on the mainland with her appearance in the second season of the smash-hit reality TV show I am a Singer {我是歌手}.

The show pits seasoned performers against each other for audience favor, and, with her win on Friday, Gloria is well on her way to taking the title. 

But she is not the only winner, the Hong Kong Economic Journal’s investor diary says. The Hunan TV program has attracted aggressive bids from many consumer product makers to advertise on the show. Leading washing powder brand Liby, for example, spent 235 million yuan (US$38.48 million) to give its name on the program. Market rival Blue Moon also paid a lofty price to sponsor CCTV’s blockbuster music program Sing My Song {中国好歌曲}.

The shows have become so common that the authorities are trying to curb them. The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television outlined plans in July to limit the total number of hours and frequency with which such programs are broadcast. But if CCTV is also in the game, market forces have clearly beaten back the government’s invisible hand.

The enthusiasm for the programs has driven up share prices of related firms and more TV stations could get on the music reality show bandwagon to compete for the advertising dollars. But investment returns will be far less certain when supply multiplies.

There will only be a handful of winners taking most of the rewards because the most popular few will attract most of the sponsorship bids, squeezing out the challengers.

But the future of even the top shows now is far from guaranteed. Like The Apprentice and America’s Next Top Model, this type of show has its cycle.

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