Chinese TV stations have long believed that the bulk of their viewership was people past their prime with little income, a segment fashion shows were rarely willing to touch.
But all that might change with The Goddess' New Dress, a reality show that seeks to celebrate fashion and beauty. The show recently announced its landing on Shanghai-based Dragon TV where it will premiere on Aug 23.
The programme, which will also run on online platforms Youku and Tudou, owes its origin to similar shows in the West, while betting its success on China's Internet craze.
In each episode, six female celebrities will make clothes under given themes with the help of professional designers. They will then model those clothes at a final runway show to win orders from shop owners at tmall.com, one of China's largest e-commerce sites.
"Our rule is that all designs should be practical and priced under 500 yuan (S$101). I can imagine the excitement the audience will feel when they see clothes that they can wear on models too," says Li Hongshan, chief brand officer of Guangzhou-based media company Blue Flame, that is producing the show.
The handpicked designs will be immediately put into mass production. Within 24 hours of airing an episode, the new dresses will hit online stores nationwide, according to him. "We want to draw back young audiences who now spend most of their time online."
Although New Dress isn't completely a new idea, its collaboration with new age media has got the industry excited as traditional TV channels are still seen to be short on creativity. In a market where more than 40 satellite broadcasters are competing for attention from the same audiences and advertisers, conservative senior TV management have been less willing to risk new ideas for fear of letting ratings and income fall, says Kim Gordon, founder of Imaginement China.
Having previously worked with the BBC, Gordon's company specializes in training Chinese TV producers in creativity. His clients include producers from leading channels such as Hunan and Jiangsu TV.
The situation means a tested formula is still a safer card to play. That is why Chinese TV channels are constantly inspired by overseas programme formats, such as the Voice of China series that have already been tested in other markets and often mean a better chance of success.
Another problem is that when a format proves successful on a leading Chinese channel, other networks tend to buy a similar format or imitate the idea.