On December 15, an investigation by Legal Daily exposed an unfortunate reality of China’s entertainment industry: Many TV programs in the country manipulate viewership data. According to the report, an unnamed TV show that aired this past April spent 90 million RMB (roughly 14 million USD) boosting its ratings.
This expenditure made up a considerable percentage of the show’s total earnings, which were allegedly somewhere north of 100 million RMB.
In the report, Li Xuezheng, director of the state-affiliated Golden Shield Television Center, shared that “90% of TV shows in China spent money on fabricating viewership data.” Li also pointed out that he has expressed concerns about this fraudulent practice for years, yet little progress has been made in tackling the issue.
Indeed, the practice of ‘buying’ fake ratings is not new to China’s TV industry. According to the report, in 2016, the show Beauty’s Private Kitchen, which featured now-blacklisted actress Zheng Shuang as the lead character, was canceled for not spending money to manipulate its viewership figures.
A scene from the cancelled TV program Beauty’s Private Kitchen. Screengrab via YouTube
Furthermore, TV writer Guo Ming (alias) said that to air a show on certain stations, production companies often must sign a contract guaranteeing good ratings. And if they don’t achieve the promised number of viewers, they will lose profits.
On Weibo, the hashtag ‘A TV show earned more than 100 million RMB but spent 90 million on ratings’ (#一部剧收入1亿多9000万买收视率#) has gone viral, accumulating more than 470 million views at the time of writing.
Some netizens believe advertising revenue has played a significant role in perpetuating the problem of falsifying TV viewership numbers. “If you don’t have good ratings, you won’t have good ad revenue, and then you won’t have investment — so you will fail,” commented one netizen.
Others shared their belief that purchasing fake ratings is futile, with one Weibo user writing, “Everyone will know if it is a good show or a bad one. It is sad that so many people no longer watch Chinese TV shows.”
Cover image via Depositphotos
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