Boyle adds heat to Japan’s ‘Contest’

New Year's Eve show tops 40% ratings share

NHK’s “The Red White Song Contest,” the pubcaster’s traditional end-of-year variety show, captured a market share of more than 40% Thursday, boosted by the appearance of singing sensation Susan Boyle.

A Japanese broadcasting staple since the dawn of television in the 1950s, the show pits male and female singing teams against each other in a contest whose winners are determined by a panel of judges and an audience vote.

Broadcast on New Year’s Eve, it has consistently been the highest-rated show on Japanese TV, other than for certain news and sports events.

A last-minute addition, Boyle received a reported $56,300 to sung her signature number, “I Dreamed a Dream.” But her brief appearance, widely whooped up in the local media, gave the show a ratings spike that lifted it to 40.8%, according to the Video Research rating service.

A rating below 40%, which last occurred in 2007, is considered a disaster for the pubcaster.

Also giving the show a boost was veteran rocker Eiichi Yazawa, the Japanese Bruce Springsteen, who rarely appears on TV — save in ads for a best-selling beer and other products.

Launched in 1951, “The Red and White Song Contest” hit its record-high rating in 1963 with 81.4%. Most of Japan’s all-time ratings date from this era when entertainment alternatives were fewer.

Today, a regularly skedded show that scores above 20% is considered a ratings smash, though some news and sports events, such as World Cup soccer matches with the Japanese national team, score ratings in the 30s and above.

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