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MTV looks to new VJs to boost ratings

Hanli Hoefer, who is a Singaporean of German and Peranakan descent, made her debut on the channel in January this year. Alan Wong, a Chinese-American, started going on air last month. -ST
Soh Gill

Sat, Apr 13, 2013
The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - In what seems to be a bid to turn the tide of declining viewership, MTV Asia has introduced two new VJs.

Hanli Hoefer, who is a Singaporean of German and Peranakan descent, made her debut on the channel in January this year. Alan Wong, a Chinese-American, started going on air last month.

Both will co-host original series The MTV Show, which announced its second season earlier this month and will resume next week.

The anchor production airs weekly, featuring most-watched music videos, movie trailers, celebrity gossip and other pop culture-related segments.

The newly unveiled VJs say they are able to represent the MTV brand - which launched in the United States in 1981 - for a new generation.

Says Hoefer, 20: "I consider myself to be part of the audience." Referring to the Millennial Generation, born between the 1980s and 2000s, she adds: "I am a millennial myself and, being part of the show, I feel like I know exactly what my peers want and I would do my best to give them what they want."

In recent years, MTV - short for Music Television, although the abbreviation has since entered the lexicon - has been known more prominently for its reality series, such as teen mum series 16 And Pregnant (2009-present) and Jersey Shore (2009-2012), about housemates in the American state of New Jersey, most infamously Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi.

Last year, with the impending conclusion of smash-hit reality series Jersey Shore in December, the Wall Street Journal reported that MTV suffered a 32 per cent drop in prime-time viewership.

On why the duo were chosen, MTV's senior director for content in South-east Asia and Greater China, Ms Sari Trisulo, 40, says: "The VJs have the same qualities as the MTV brand. For example, Alan is a movie buff. He'll be working with the producers to select movies to feature. And Hanli is a music head. She's very involved in helping us craft questions for the artists that will be on the show.

"So they are going to help us connect with the audience in this new season." Hoefer, who started modelling last year, gets her looks from her German father Hans, 70, who moved here 40 years ago, and Peranakan mother Cynthia Wee-Hoefer, 61.

The Hoefers run a business importing organic vegetables from Nepal. Hoefer lives with her parents in an apartment in Pasir Panjang, while her elder brother Hans-Sen, 21, works on a ship and lives in Changi.

"My family have been nothing but supportive," says the VJ, who graduated with an International Baccalaureate diploma from the United World College.

At a preview of The MTV Show last week at Resorts World Sentosa's Waterfront Studio, she traded jokes and barbs with co-host Wong in front of a turn-out of more than five media publications from countries such as The Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

Born to a Chinese father and an American mother, both in their mid-50s, Wong relocated to Hong Kong in 2011 to try and break into the Asian entertainment scene before moving here in mid-January.

The tall and boyish-looking Wong, 27, says the most significant change to season 2 of The MTV Show is that it will be audience-led.

Online voting by viewers will determine how well songs do on its The People's Charts.

A large portion of the show will be dedicated to popular social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In each episode, the most creative Instagram dedication to the show will be featured and senders stand to win prizes. The VJs may discuss their Facebook and Twitter interaction with viewers.

Says Hoefer: "We are very involved behind the scenes. We do our research and come up with our own questions. We're always on our Instagram, Twitter, because this show is so social media-driven."

Technology and social media also figure in Wong's personal life. A full-time host since the age of 23, he says he keeps in touch with his parents, both teachers in California, and his attorney brother Brian, 30, who lives in San Francisco, via WhatsApp instant messaging.

Where once MTV VJs were household names, with the likes of Nadya Hutagalung and Utt Panichkul capitalising on their fame to launch acting careers in the late 1990s and 2000s, their profile these days is significantly lower.

Asked if this is a good time to join MTV, when the heyday of VJs seems over, Wong says: "The target audience is different and the kids that are growing up now, hopefully, the show appeals to them."

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