Competition is getting real in Chinese TV: A moment of confrontation between CCTV and HSTV

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China Central Television (CCTV) and Hunan Satellite Television (HST) have engaged in a moment of confrontation. The two networks have great stakes in that confrontation, and each has a lot to gain or to lose, including access to television utilities, reach to national audiences and share of the advertising market, not to mention the right to represent the viewers. I attempt to document that moment of confrontation in this paper. I begin with a brief review of existing knowledge about Chinese television, moving away from a propaganda monolith. I continue with a discussion of regional satellite television (STV) broadcasters aspiring to be a national force to be reckoned with. However, as I argue in the paper, capacity constraints and economic reality mean that there is a limit to what the STVs can do. I then proceed to a discussion of an exceptional case involving HSTV, a regional broadcaster based in an underdeveloped inland province of China. I will describe the smart commercial cycle accomplished by the STV, best exemplified by the success of a talent quest show known as Super Girls. The model provided a passage to the survival of HSTV, but by doing so it also unnerved CCTV, the ailing empire of television in China. Towards the end of the paper, I discuss the reactions of CCTV, which apparently bordered on desperation and despair. I use the confrontation to reiterate that Chinese television is changing drastically and that it is high time for the political television establishment to learn to put up with the new commercially operated broadcasters.
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Zhong, Yong
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