Running Man, a South Korean reality show format, has made a splash across Asia. Classified as an “urban action variety”, the show gains much of its success from its unique format and hilarious situations.
In each episode, the MCs and guests compete against each other in weird but zany games of all sorts. The setting is usually a landmark in a major city. The object of the game could be about sailing a pool on a big paper box or singing karaoke on a roller coaster.
The Korean version was created on July 2010. However in May 2014, SBS announced that there will be a Chinese version being coproduced with Zhejiang Television. The staff members of the Korean version will also participate in the Chinese version as well. The members of the Chinese Running Man will include: Deng Chao, Wang Baoqiang, Wang Cho Lam, Chen He, Li Chen, Zheng Kai, and Angelababy.
This never-seen-before genre has become so popular in China that Zhejiang Satellite TV signed a deal with the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), the original producer of the show, to jointly produce a Chinese version of the series, which is now being aired.
Running Man has shown how the Korean Wave (a term that refers to the growing influence of Korean pop culture) is now shaping China’s TV production.
A few years ago, the Korean Wave started sweeping across China in TV drama and music, at that time, mainland networks simply bought the broadcasting rights and aired the shows on their channels.
In recent years, Korean's formats became more and more popular in Chinese market. For instance, Hunan TV launched I am a Singer, a singing competition using the reality show format. Hunan Television acquired the production rights from South Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation in 2012 and made a local version of the show.
Although the Chinese produced the program, the Korean producers sent experts to guide their Chinese counterparts on the nitty-gritty of the show, including production flow and other details that were often overlooked.
In 2013, five Korean variety shows including Where Are We Going, Dad? were adapted for the Chinese audience. They all turned out to be successful despite the frenzied competition in the industry.
Running Man, however, was introduced to China through another business model. Zhejiang Satellite TV is jointly producing the Chinese version with its Korean partner. Instead of just sending advisers, SBS has sent its own production team including video specialists to China.
In last week’s episode, seven MCs from the original Korean production participated in the Chinese version of the game show, competing with the Chinese team. That provided a great boost to the show’s ratings.
The Director of SBS told Chinese reporter, because of the growing appetite for Korean pop culture in China, production rights for Chinese versions of Korean shows now cost a lot more. Fees now range from US$10,000 to US$20,000 per episode, compared with just US$10,000 for the whole program about a year ago.
Bao Xiao-qun, administrative vice president of Dragon Television, said Korean producers sometimes ask for commissions on top of the basic TV-rights fee. For example, they can have a share of the revenue from commercials based on the ratings, or other incomes such as those from overseas distribution.
In the joint-venture model, producers in Korea and China have to work together in a much closer way, meaning that the former can ask for more than just the patent fees. For the Korean television studios, this kind of cooperation provides a larger incentive than just selling their production rights, as China is an enormous market with great potential.
China’s cultural business is expected to grow 12 percent annually between 2012 and 2017, and the market is likely to reach US$21.2 billion by 2017, according to the Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency.
Meanwhile, Chinese broadcasters and production companies are quite willing to pay the price as popular shows guarantee huge income flows from sponsors.