Interactive online program captures audience

Interactive, online programming is red-hot in China and teens are flocking to watch “Sufei’s Diary,” the local adaptation of Portuguese Web format “Sofia’s Diary.”

The 40-episode multiplatform skein follows an 18-year-old girl adjusting to a new life in Shanghai where she has moved to go to college. It is a big hit in China, home to nearly 300 million webizens.

Skein blends online and alternative media in the story. There are weekly online polls to help Sufei make decisions about what to do next, and the outcome of the poll is incorporated into the storyline of the next episode.

“Sufei’s Diary” plays on popular websites including Sina.com and online video-sharing site Youku.com as well as nationwide university broadband network, Cernet.com.

“Sufei’s Diary” is also shown on TV screens in some of China’s airports and will play on screens in public buses and subway stations in Beijing and Shanghai.

Viewers can interact using blogs, online comments and through updates on their cell phones. There have been 15.3 million hits since its debut in mid-December.

“Sufei’s Diary” is produced by Huaso, a joint venture between Sony Pictures Television and China Film Group.

The format is hailed as a breakthrough in making money out of interactive TV. Skein collaborated with advertisers to integrate branding — Sufei uses a pink Sony Vaio, Clinique for her acne and job-hunting website 51job.com.

“This is Huaso’s first digital series and our experiment with multiple platforms has proven to be an effective way to target the tech-savvy youth market,” says Mary Chan, SPTI’s VP of production.

“We believe the show is not only entertaining, but the level of interaction offered by the show towards our advertising partners’ brands is something that cannot be replicated by traditional TV programs. That is why we are already talking to advertisers about innovative brand integrations for season two of the show.”

The format was created by Portuguese studio BeActive as “Sofia’s Diary” in 2003 and became a global phenomenon with local adaptations in the U.S., Germany, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Vietnam and Blighty. The Chinese version can be seen at sufei.tv.

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