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Video killed the radio star only to be caught in the Web

Updated: 2012-03-15 09:40
By Chen Nan ( China Daily)

Video killed the radio star only to be caught in the Web

Chinese TV is moving off TV and online.

Online video websites, such as Youku, Tudou (which declared they will merge this week) and Qiyi, are launching original programs in the form of shorts.

Actors Ai Lun and Wang Ning, who performed at the 2012 CCTV Spring Festival Gala, recently appeared in an online short feature about six young people striving to open and run a theater. Happy Ma Hua Theater takes the format of US TV shows like Friends and The Big Bang Theory online.

The show premiered on video site LeTV in January and releases an episode every Thursday. Each show averages about 30 minutes.

The first three episodes have received nearly 200 million clicks.

"We didn't set an end to the series and don't know how many seasons it will run," says Ai, the 30-year-old comedian who joined Happy Ma Hua Cultural Co in 2006.

The company released a New Year drama series in 2003 and has since produced 17 New Year dramas that have become popular among young audiences. The dramas have, in turn, boosted Ai's fame.

"The new online TV series will follow the Happy Ma Hua dramas' style, which is funny, witty and honed in on issues youths care about," Ai says.

"The actors, most of whom are born after 1980, write the scripts. We also call upon viewers to submit stories, which makes the series more interactive and creative. We're like our audiences in that we're all big fans of online TV series."

Happy Ma Hua Theater is among the better and more ambitious dramas online.

Wang puts it this way: "Whether the Internet is the future of television or not, it looks like the future, the place the future wants to be. It's good for the viewers, who enjoy more choices, and for entertainers, who enjoy a new platform on which to work."

And it's a growing platform, he explains. "Online TV's viewership is expanding to include not only young people but also my mother."

Both Wang and Ai say performing in front of the camera requires different skills than appearing onstage.

"The stage requires exaggerated facial expressions and body language, but you must act naturally in front of the cameras," Wang says. "It's a challenge for us, because we've gotten used to theater."

But there's no denying online TV offers opportunities for young and unknown actors.

LeTV employee Liu Hong says online TV show viewers tolerate more commercials than they do with traditional TV.

"Many rules have curbed traditional TV advertising, but that's not a problem for online TV, which gives us more room for development," Liu says.

So, he says, LeTV will invest 120 million yuan in online TV programs this year.

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