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Tyro web dumps local shows for U.S. fare

Flagship local magazine show 'The Big Buffet' scrapped

SINGAPORE — In the newly competitive terrestrial TV environment, newcomer SPH MediaWorks’ learning curve just keeps getting steeper.

Its English-lingo TV Works channel has just undergone its third revamp in as many months, while incumbent MediaCorp TV is celebrating a ratings record for its Mandarin Chinese version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”

Before its May launch, TV Works based its hopes in a primetime offering of 70% local fare. SPH MediaWorks’ CEO Lee Cheok Yew’s mission was to offer Singaporeans a choice without relying on “recycled U.S.-programming.”

The latest TV Works grid is a U-turn, with a slew of U.S. imports dominating, while flagship local magazine show “The Big Buffet,” skedded for 90 minutes Monday through Thursday, has been scrapped.

From ABC’s “The Mole” and Mark Burnett’s “Combat Mission” to WBTV’s “The Drew Carey Show” and “Becker,” TV Works’ schedule resembles the MediaCorp Channel 5 model it sought to subvert. Its only real ratings success has been the live telecast of soccer club Manchester United’s Southeast Asian tour; now hopes rest with weekly highlights of English Premier League soccer.

English-language MediaCorp Channel 5 has stuck to its mix of blockbuster movies and U.S. dramas and sitcoms. Its two franchised properties, “Celebrity Squares” and “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?,” have rated well in Chinese and English.

Having notched up 10% ratings for the 13-week run of Channel 5’s English version, the Mandarin version of “Millionaire” achieved a record 19% rating on MediaCorp TV Channel 8.

Thought to be the only broadcaster in the world running the series in two languages, MediaCorpTV execs are refusing to be complacent. “One can’t underestimate the competition, but neither should one underestimate the incumbent,” says MediaCorpTV chief operating officer Farrell Meisel.

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