HONG KONG — Rupert Murdoch-backed Star Group is working feverishly to build buzz before its 24-hour Mandarin-lingo channel, Xing Kong Wei Shi, hits Chinese airwaves.
The company hasn’t confirmed a launch date, apart from saying it will be sometime in the first half of this year.
But Star last week reached a deal with Beijing-based Ying’s Production to create “Youthful Joy,” a 40-episode sitcom for the new channel, about three young single women who share an apartment.
Finding attractive local content could be the key to Star’s success in China. In India, the company unexpectedly vaulted to the top of satellite channel rankings thanks to the extraordinary success of a Hindi version of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” and a clutch of local-language shows.
Late last year, the company — like rival AOL Time Warner — was granted permission to broadcast in southern China’s affluent Guangdong province.
The government nod was a vital first step, but getting local talent such as veteran Chinese producer Ying Da on board could be just as significant.
Ying created China’s first sitcom and has since produced national hits such as “Love My Family” and “Chinese Restaurant” (he also starred in the award-winning “Farewell My Concubine”).
Even with Ying on board, 24 hours per day is a lot of programming time to fill. Star has publicly committed to make 700 hours of Mandarin programming for the channel.
To keep the anticipation building, Star needs to have many more deals like this one in the pipeline.