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Reality TV mania grips China with 'Wedding Race'

HONG KONG: The reality television bug is gradually biting viewers across Asia. In India, Zee's reality TV channel was launched last month but Indian networks are still wary of reality shows, soaps. Now, China has jumped on to the reality bandwagon with the first overseas produced reality adventure game show.

Shot in November and December in Cairns and the Gold Coast in Australia, The Wedding Race (also known as Love You To Death) puts five romantically-linked couples against each other in a variety of extreme sports and challenges. At stake is a house in China.

The Chinese couples were selected after a search across the country for contestants. The bases for selection were personalities, athleticism and overall romantic chemistry. Real-life drama unfolded once the couples were separated (the male contestants were sent to Cairns while the female contestants went to the Gold Coast) for the duration of the production, having to perform daily challenges against each other.

In a few days, the show will be seen across China on a network of 20 leading terrestrial and city stations covering a potential audience of 750 million viewers.

An official release informs that losing or not completing a competition led to extreme public humiliation or physical penalties being sentenced to their partners, 1,700 kilometers away. The grand finale pit the men against each other in a gruelling, five discipline race in 38 degrees of heat (sand tobogganing, desert running, sea kayaking, ATV quad-bike racing and ocean swimming). Their partners (whom they had not seen for weeks) stood waiting at the finish line. The first to pass the post, into the arms of their partner, would win the house.

The show has been produced by Deansee Entertainment in association with Tourism Queensland and Guangdong Television, which offered their unyielding support to the production, and Branded Limited, which played an essential part in securing the corporate sponsorships.

The show's concept was created by television producers Ken Lau and David Lee who are partners in Deansee Entertainment . The challenges were designed to take advantage of Queensland's natural landscapes and dramatic backdrops. The producers also leveraged the extreme sports locales and establishments which have already gained popularity with visiting adventure-seekers.

Another innovation was the fact that the sponsors Coca Cola (China) and Siemens mobile had their products get naturally integrated into the show. In the heat, the need for the beverage conglomerate was made more than apparent. In the night the couples could chat and exchange pictures of the day's activities via MMS with their new Siemens Mobile S57 phones.

Taking the lead on bringing Coca-Cola and Siemens to the show was Branded Limited, a Hong Kong-based regional Entertainment Marketing Company, who raised the required sponsorship and advised on all commercial issues throughout the production.

Speaking on the logic behind the initiative Executive Director of Branded Limited Jasper Donat said, "Sponsor assisted programming is a rapid growth market in Asia. As television stations tighten their acquisition budgets, it is independent production companies who can lose out. Sourcing funding through commercial partners is, therefore, a very attractive option.

Additionally, advertisers have a great opportunity to influence television content, and can actually enhance the offering to the viewer with relevance in an un-hostile environment.

In this case, The Wedding Race demonstrates the refreshing qualities of Coca-Cola and the new MMS features of the new Siemens S57 phone, says a press release. In many instances, this becomes a much more powerful presentation of the product and/or brand than more traditional advertising techniques. Moreover, commercial breaks are notoriously 'times to make a cup of tea' . However, product placement and usage oversteps this problem."

Coca Cola has said that the association was an excellent fit as the spirit of optimism, confidence and positivity in the show are the same as the image & spirit of Coca- Cola.

In the show competitions included "as many times as you can" nose-touching amidst a skydiving freefall, simulated G-Force windmill parachute spins, swimming with hungry live sharks, bungee jump lake fishing, human target hillside water-sliding, hang-gliding bomb dropping, bungee go-cart dart-throwing, female ice-water barrel dipping, and live tad-pole mouth fishing.

Finally, Chinese viewers will also have the opportunity to be selected as contestants on the show's second season through the show's official SMS information service.

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