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New faces for gala

Updated: 2015-02-05 08:39
By Han Bingbin (China Daily)

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

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 Sing My 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 let myself 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 most-watched 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 old-fashioned 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 - nespecially 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 and now super idol Li Yuchun. 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 Sophie Marceau.

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 on Monday.

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, as many Chunwan programs have become more socially relevant by encompassing social problems and controversies, he says.

Contact the writer at hanbingbin@chinadaily.com.cn

 New faces for gala

Left: Xinjiangborn 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 announcemembers of the hosting team, Right: Singer Li Yuchun, who has rehearsed for the Gala, performs at a Hunan TV show on Dec 31. Photos Provided To China Daily

 

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