How Audience Matters in Korean Format’s Localization

Curator's Note

Korean format show is increasingly popular in the recent years, in particular, for the Chinese broadcaster who targets its domestic as well as international population. As a global franchising production, local buyers have to respond to format vendors’ power, such as production bible or knowledge transformation, while they also have to compromise the local situation, such as audience’s preferences. The interactions between production team and audiences, in fact, is part of the localization process that involved with power negotiations. This case focuses on Hurry Up, Brother, which is a Chinese version of Korean formatted show, Running Man. Its localization is involved with seven parties, namely the local production team, Korean format owner, celebrities, sponsors, independent companies and audiences. As part of power structure, audience is the less powerful and indirect participant, while it still matters.

In general, audiences speak out via online platform, such as comments on personal or official account of producers in Hurry Up, Brother on Weibo platform (a Chinese similar version of Twitter) and online comments on Bilibili digital media web. Chinese audiences have several differences with Korean. First, Chinese version is produced by season that allows more time for production team while Korean is a daily show; hence Chinese audience believe that Chinese version should be better. That high expectation gives production team more pressure. Secondly, Running Man has been popular in Chinese audience for five years before it was localized in China in 2014, hence, Chinese audience become quite professional with this Korean show, so they have a picky attitude to the localized version. Thirdly, Chinese audience prefers surprise themes and quick rhythm in storytelling, rather than a Korean documentary-style storytelling. That means local version has to give audiences more fantasies in this show. Those differences, both cultural and social distances, make the local version different.

I summarize the interactions between audiences and creative workers into three ways based on my filed work and interviews. First, audience’s participation in the filming as media content. Since this is a realty show, audience participates the filming as a part of “reality”. Secondly, audience’ online responses as a selection criterion for the controversial content editing. Thirdly, audience is the bargaining capital for junior producers to management staff as well as for management to the Chinese government. The higher audience rating the show has, the more power the production team will have. Audience is both capital and threaten to the government and production team. The Chinese government aims to maintain the domestic stability and harmony; hence, when the producers negotiated with local government, they cannot force the production team without negotiation. This is very important in a country like China where the government has a quite strict censorship on media. The main argument is that localization is a process of power negotiations in which power is neither top-down nor dispersed, while it is filled with negotiations. You can find more details in my forthcoming articles.

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