by Chen Yifan, Sun Xian, Zuo Shuhang

Reality show also called Reality TV,the first born in Europe,after which it was extensive followed by western media such as American public broadcasting companies and other western medias.

Currently Reality became the most popular television program. “Reality show” shows personal life in a settled environment and rules as the main form. The various actions of participants in a specific space are recorded and broadcast by television cameras. The reality show programs which have distinctive Chinese characteristics has won the recognition of the audience, and gradually warming. The local reality show comes out one after another which is accepted by Chinese audience. The scholars of communication called the process “the localization of the reality show”.

In 2005, “super girls’ voice” (Hunan TV) was well-known for a time, which can be regarded as China’s first high time of reality show, until 2010, Jiangsu Satellite TV broadcasted “do not sincere non-interference”,after then reality show type began to diversification. In recent years, many reality shows earn a lot of attention, such as “the voice of China”, “Daddy, where are you going”. During the decade, Chinese TV experienced numerous changes, which also shows the ups and downs of reality shows.

As the ten years of the major development and reform of the reality show program, we can divide the 10 years into three stages, which are the continuation of each other and the characteristics of each other.

(1) The development period of prosperity: “big traffic jam caused by super girl”

In 2005, the reality show break into the audience’s vision with a strong attitude, which makes audience go to the wild in this mass Carnival. This program form also allows CCTV, Hunan satellite TV, Oriental satellite TV has achieved a great degree of attention, at the a number of channels to a huge text messages, advertising, concerts and other programs related to value-added revenue. The reality shows a wide range of audience attention and the ability to absorb gold, so that the form of the program in 2006 reached a stage of prosperity.

But with the media commercialization concept, the impact of the over – Entertainment reality show in the face of the prosperity of the show, but said the benefits of control. This control is divided into two levels: first, the audience behavior of the control. The 2004 Super Girl “singing in Hunan, in the summer of 2005” super girls “in national singing, the hearts of millions of young people with Li Yuchun, Bibi, Zhang Liang Ying, he Jie crazy. The two is out of control and self-discipline in the commercial culture media under candle invasion. The most typical is in 2006 after a large number of homogeneous of talent reality show, fickle audience some aesthetic fatigue, and decreased with increasing degree of concern of audience, triggered a vicious competition of each channel. To gain a foothold in the market competition, and have resorted to every means, in the show transition with prominent dramatic conflict. Many players go to cry bitterly, and the “tongue” judges confrontation, threw the microphone leave screen broadcast, and malicious speculation topic, the pass phrase judges prevalence, draft shady frequent. These over pursuit of the program “effect” of the way to make the reality shows the reality show has lost the initial appeal of the public, fair, sincere feeling, so that the audience hate, this production is increasingly poor, over entertainment, while the value of the program is also moving from.

(2) Precipitation period of discipline: A low tide because of the political discipline

In the second half of 2007, affected by some comprehensive factors, such as the 17th National Congress, SARFT added more administrational interference on Chinese reality show to keep the media management, leading value and ideology under control. So Chinese reality show came into a winter time since 2007 and many TV stations started doing something creative to save themselves. As the forerunner in reality show, Hunan satellite TV acted the first. They produced two programs –“super boys” and “shot to fame”, which became super girl’s complementation, to heal the audience’s aesthetic fatigue. From 2003 to 2006, most Chinese reality show put emphasize on shaping the common people into super star, while “shot to fame” changed this mode. As a reality show with real TV stars, “shot to fame” wanted to give a surprise by these TV stars. Besides, they also made it series and broadcasted seasonally like the western mode.

Except for what Hunan satellite TV did, Oriental satellite TV launched a new quarterly- broadcasting reality show about dancing by TV star—“Let’s shake it”. Zhejiang satellite TV had a show called “Do you remember”, which combined selection with participation of all people. Jiangxi satellite TV achieved a good audience ratings and reputation by its “China Red song show” which catered to the mainstreaming.

These programs made people feel fresh and new in the turning point 2007.

(3) Multivariate exploration period: the time of post-reality show began with market competition

The competition in TV show continues heating up since 2010. Experiencing the exploration and summary from 2007 to 2009, Chinese reality show changed thoughts with the guidance of policy. New-style show about career or daily life appeared.

Based on innovation and localization, practitioners tried to explore some new concepts of creation with Chinese own situation and positively led other professional production team as eternal source into their creation to find a new mode.

In 2010, “You are the one” showed us a totally different mode about marriage. It keeps change until now. Some people even said it discusses about young man’s marriage concept and family view, so it’s more than a simply “blind date” show.

In 2012, a large inspirational music review show, “the good voice of China”, shocked all the people, and it kept the highest audience rate among the country. The success reminded people of “super girl” in 2005, because they both achieved economic benefits and a good reputation, and had a great social effect after then. To 2012, producers became more clear about the market rule, so their production turned into a high level and they can get a good balance between the market and social effect. The success of “good voice” in 2012 is an omen for the great boom of reality show in 2013. It connected tightly with social culture, social economy and the development of technology and TV program. So it’s definitely not accidental. Most TV stations increase the number and provide much more playing time for reality show. According to a survey, more than 30 TV programs have been imported into China by provincial satellite TV, and most of them are reality show.

Judging from the three periods, it’s not hard to discover the changes of reality shows’ types in China, from the only talent shows at the very beginning to the hot dating shows, and now the outdoor reality shows along with technology reality shows. The market of Chinese reality shows is in the free exchange of prosperity situation. The types of reality shows are various and the models are diversified.

The ten-year-development of reality shows production started the diversification strategy for satisfying different requirements of different audience, to cultivate multilevel audience and improve the holistic audience rating. The diversification include these aspects below:

First of all, multivariate themes. A channel takes the strategies of producing different programs in the overall style, targeting different groups accurately, and separating period of time to make programs according to different target groups’ watching habits. For example, in 2011, the Dragon TV in Shanghai broadcasted ‘Chinese Talent show’ and ‘Let’s Shake It ’(a dancing competition program) by turns at the same period.

Afterwards, diversified profit model. Reality shows launched new profit models of mobile supplier texting, relevant CDs, concerts, souvenirs, besides of advertisements and title sponsors. It has become a trend to build a industry chain for the reality shows, for instant, the reality show ‘Where Are We Going Dad’ in Hunan TV station produced a film of the same name at the end of the year in 2014.

Furthermore, the diversified producers. ‘The separation of production and broadcasting’ has become a hot topic among Chinese media institutions. The separation was beneficial to create new interesting programs with social sources efficiently, and changed the situation that the TV station creating and selling all by themselves. The diversified of producers will bring fresh air to the talent shows. The separation of production and broadcasting is the success factor of the ‘Voice of China’ in 2012. In the future, the production of Chinese talent shows will become increasingly mature with the communication with some foreign advanced producers.

There are many rises and falls within the development of reality shows in China. From the talent shows at the very beginning to the hot dating shows, and now the superstar outdoor reality shows along with technology reality shows, the increase trend of reality shows has contributed to the saturation of TV. How to keep the audience away from aesthetic fatigue, and how to make the programs more close to the Chinese daily life has become more important to the media institutions in China. As the changes of marketing and audience, reality shows develop in diversified ways and will keep the increasing trend in the future.