China Insights

Social sentiments reflect challenges of importing TV concepts

Ruby Tang

Senior Research Consultant

Social 05.07.2017 / 11:50

Tv social full

The sentiments of social media comments about Chinese versions of `Midnight Diner’ and ‘Running Man’ are hugely different. The stark contrast shows the opportunity and challenge of importing foreign TV programme concepts into China.

On June 12, the Chinese adaptation of Japanese manga series Shinya Shokudo went on air with the Chinese name of “深夜食堂” (Midnight Diner). The series told stories happened at a “midnight diner”, which opened to business every day at mid-night, between its owner and customers. The cast and list of guest stars had caused high expectations before its premier show.  However, it turned out to be a flop, at least for the first several episodes. The average score of this show on the leading content review website Douban was only 2.7 out of 10 after 91,470 users cast their votes. People were complaining that too many product placement advertisement has been jammed into the show, and they had disrupted the natural flow of the story. People were also criticizing Japanese elements in the Chinese production, apparently inherited from the original TV drama but not connected to Chinese reality.

Weibo user comments about Chinese Midnight Diner

@精神病院楼长: I couldn’t stand Chinese version and switched to the original Japanese one immediately, because I just felt regretful that such a great theme was ruined by not combining the plots with Chinese reality! Link

@笑容女王-Tina: No wonder netizens were complaining about it. I almost smashed my computer when I saw the expression on Wu Xin’s facial expression, and the tone of the picture, with a pickle instant noodle in her hands. Link 


0703-Midnight Diner WoM


Word cloud of social comments about “Midnight Diner” Episode 1 on Weibo, June 12. Data source: Kantar Media CIC IWOM Cooperator

We can see that hot words about the episode included instant noodle, embarrassment and disappointment, showing audiences’ negative feelings. The original Japanese production was also mentioned frequently because people were saying it was a much better show. Social media users are not happy with the poor localization of this TV drama.

However, another localized foreign TV concept, reality show Running Man from South Korea, has remained a popular programme into its fifth season. In the latest season, which just ended on June 30, the cast included famous celebrities like Deng Chao and Angelababy. The show managed to design every season theme based on Chinese cultural elements. Its fifth season received decent ratings, reviewing scores, and positive online comments.

Weibo user comments about Chinese Running Man, Season 5

@我是荷田田: It’s exciting to watch Running Man. Challenge of the impossible 30 metres. Li Chen and Wong Cho Lam were awesome, and they were taking on the impossible tasks, full of positive energy!    Link

@Claire-White-90: Running Man is still so exciting to watch. It has brought me plenty of positive energies. I felt extremely happy to (feel like) play(ing) with you together. It feels so good!  Link

In 2014, after the premier show of the Season 1, Episode 1 of Running Man, the word cloud of online buzz was this:

0703-Running Man S1E1 WOM

* Positive words appeared frequently in discussions: Great, love, cute, etc. It was evident that audiences were attracted by the show.

* Celebrity names were also mentioned frequently, which demonstrated big stars were effective in driving programme awareness.

If we compare these two programmes data in this year:

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During the abovementioned period (June 12 till 23), Midnight Diner was shown every day, while only two episodes of Running Man were shown.

CN-Running Man Vs Midnight Diner NSR

Net sentiment rate is one of the online brand reputation indexes, measuring the margin from the mention in the sense of positive and negative. The data period for Running Man was from April 14 till May 12 (first five episodes of Season Five); for Midnight Diner was from June 12 till June 16 (first five episodes).

Kantar Media CIC Says:

From Running Man to Midnight Diner, there are many foreign TV concepts imported into China and adapted into local productions. However, a popular foreign TV programme won’t succeed in China automatically. If the plot is directly copied from the original work, it may fail to overcome the cultural gap, arouse complaints and receive poor ratings. Localization is the key to successful adaption of foreign TV concepts, such as:

* Adjust the cultural elements that are out of place in China and replace them with relevant Chinese elements;

* Produce high quality original stories in a Chinese background to meet audience expectations;

* A popular foreign TV concept can jumpstart audience interest for its Chinese adaptation, but if not properly localized, it will backfire and damage the reputation of the producer.

Source: Kantar Media CIC

Editor's notes

* To reach the author, or to know more information, data and analysis of social media TV analysis, please contact us.

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