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Q&A: 'The Ellen DeGeneres Show' to Stream in China

FILE - Ellen DeGeneres accepts the award for favorite daytime TV host at the 40th annual People's Choice Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Jan. 8, 2014.
FILE - Ellen DeGeneres accepts the award for favorite daytime TV host at the 40th annual People's Choice Awards at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, Jan. 8, 2014.
Ira Mellman
One of the most popular daytime television talk programs on U.S. television will soon be available to the people of China. As Ellen DeGeneres, of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, announced the availability of her program, she said, “This is big news. We recently became the first American talk show to air in China. It's basically the same show but it will have subtitles and will be called The Happy Lady Dance Hour. The show is streaming online on Sohu.com. This is exciting because over a billion people are in China!"
 
Voice of America Daybreak Asia's Ira Mellman spoke with one of the pioneer producers of television programs in the United States about the Chinese distribution of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. In addition to being the founder of the very popular E! Entertainment television channel in the U.S., Larry Namer is now the C.E.O. of Metan Development, a company that produces television programs solely for the Chinese market.
 
NAMER:  Our company has been there for about five years now. We’ve seen what’s called an opening up of the acceptance [by China] of other countries and we think it’s just continuing the trend that we’ve been noticing.  It’s not really all that surprising for us quite honestly.
 
MELLMAN: You produce programs specifically and uniquely for the Chinese market. This is not that. What are some of the possible pitfalls? What are some of the negative and positive points of trying to do this?
 
NAMER:  There are certainly cultural differences between American culture and Chinese culture.  I wouldn’t profess myself to be an avid follower of the Ellen show, though I do watch it on occasion when I’m in the US. But a lot of her stuff seems to deal with human values and feelings and I think her stuff is pretty universal.  My gut feeling is that it will do rather well there.  I think a lot of Chinese people will be able to relate to her and what she talks about. But you know there are cultural differences; I mean an eighteen year old Chinese woman is very different than an eighteen year old woman in the U.S. And family units are quite different. In China, you have multi-generational families and the audience for TV shows is more like it used to be in the U.S. back in the 50s or 60s where families used to watch shows together. You’d never see that here. T.V. has become an individual kind of experience.  In China, it’s still a communal experience, a familial experience.
 
MELLMAN: How closely do you think that Chinese authorities examined The Ellen DeGeneres Show before they gave the OK for this?
 
NAMER: I’m almost sure they have. You know everything needs to get submitted for approvals. We have gone through the approval process and have not found it onerous.  I’m sure that the decision to do it [accept the Ellen DeGeneres Show] was not whimsical when they studied it quite a bit.
 
MELLMAN: This is being distributed on a website. It is streaming. What’s the acceptance of that in China and how would this differ from being distributed on broadcast networks and broadcast organizations?
NAMER: The use of the internet in China is quite different than that it is in the US. In China, there are quite a number of Western shows. I’ve heard a number that’s upward of over a hundred American shows that have been licensed legally to be shown on internet sites in China.
 
Money in China tends to be much younger.  People between 25 and 40 years old are typically the people with money. They’re much younger than their counterparts in the West. So, for brands, they are the important demographic to reach. They consume media on the web much more so than people here or so it seems to be moving in that direction. So people say young people under 40 are very accustomed to watching half hour shows, hour shows and movies on the web much more so than we are here in the U.S. From the numbers we’ve seen, over 500 million people are consuming video on the web in China. The amount of people is just huge and watching on their laptop and desktop is the preferred watching media experience.

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