Countdown to Chinese New Year!

Happy Year of Snake!

Have you enjoyed the Chinese New Year atmosphere around you?

Do you know how people in China welcome their New Year?

chinese count down

One common way where over 700 million Chinese people share is to watch China Central Television (CCTV) New Year’s Gala (so called春晚/Chūnwǎn in Chinese) on Chinese New Year (CNY)’s Eve.

CCTV is the predominant state-owned television broadcaster in mainland China. Started from 1983, CCTV’s gala show has been the traditional TV entertainment for Chinese people to count down to CNY. The show usually consists of short soap drama, duo stand-up comedy, singing, dancing, magic performance, acrobatic, Chinese opera, etc.

While the singing and dancing performances are old fashioned most of the time, I normally won’t watch it live unless I spent the Chinese New Year at home with my parents. However, I do enjoy the short soap drama and magic performance, not only are they the popular sessions, but also the two that created the most buzz. Therefore, even if I missed it on the New Year’s Eve, I’d watch it through video streaming platforms like PPS, Youku or Tudou.

Are you wondering how the show is like? Let’s have a look at the session with the highest view rating this year!

Liu Qian‘s magic showMagic Pianofeatured Li Yundi, well-known Chinese Classic pianist

Guinness World Records

Don’t you know the CCTV New Year’s Gala even makes a world record? With a unique reach of 498 million viewers in 2012, it got presented in Guinness World Records as the Most Watched National Network TV Broadcast. This annual 5-hour show has beaten the U.S. Academy Awards and the Super Bowl football game in terms of domestic audienceship to become the most watched national variety entertainment show in the world.

Comparison between CCTV New Year’s Gala and Super Bowl

While both CCTV New Year’s Gala and Super Bowl Show are the most watched show in their home country, in what aspects are they different from each other? Here comes a quick comparison!

Celion Dion sang in New Year Gala”春晚” while Beyonce performed in Super Bowl show


  China’s New Year Gala Show 2013 America’s Super Bowl Show 2013
Domestic Audience 700 million 111.3 million
View Rating 31.17% 47.8%
Internationally recognised performer Celion Dion(sang in Mandarin!) Beyonce
Advertisement revenue $0 due to ad-free policy since 2011! Before ad was banned, the revenue was $650 million RMB ($95m USD) in 2010 $75 million USD
The most expensive advertisement N/A $5.84 million USD($4 million for 30-sec on average)

Are you surprised that there is no commercial advertisement for such a highly watched show?

With criticism over excessive advertisements during the show, CCTV has launched the “Zero Commercial Spring Festival Gala” project since 2011. At least $1.75 billion RMB ($280 million USD) of potential advertising revenue has been lost in that 5-hour live TV show over last 3 years! An ad-free gala show in such a scale is ever possible because the cost of gala is paid for with CCTV (a government body) funds but not with the advertising revenue.

What’re the implications for businesses?

In last 3 years, the scheme to advertise on CCTV’s New Year Gala changes gradually so does the viewer’s watching habit.

According to the market research data from TNS, the ratings of CCTV’s New Year Gala have been falling while that of local TV channels like Jiangsu Satellite TV, Liaoning TV, Hunan TV and Dragon TV surges, narrowing the gap of rating between the dominating CCTV and local TV channels.

On the other hand, more and more Chinese people go online and mobile. According to the statistics from Youku and Tudou (i.e. major Chinese video streaming platforms), the New Year Gala has a total view count of up to 120 million times and the proportion of audiences watching the CCTV’s New Year Gala through mobile devices has increased from 5.7% in 2012 to 37.5% this year.

The pattern of audienceship for the New Year Gala show is foreseen to have further changes in near future. Businesses should be prepared to align their marketing strategy to cope with the changes and there are a few a channels to watch out:

  • CCTV: Though commercial advertisements are not allowed during the live show, advertisements can still be bid for with sky-high prices through sponsorships, limited product placements or hosts’ speeches in the show.
  • Local TV channels
  • Video streaming platforms
  • Social media

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