AN online video broadcast by CNTV. (Internet photo)
Due to the aging of its mainstream audience and more cautious and conservative consumption habits, China Central Television, China's predominant state TV broadcaster, is witnessing the constant erosion of its ad income. Municipal satellite TV broadcasters, such as Hunan Broadcasting System and Jiangsu Broadcasting, on the other hand, are gaining ground on the national broadcasting giant.
According to a blue-paper report on China's broadcasting and TV industry, CCTV's mainstream audience features males aged 45 and older with monthly income ranging from 601-2,600 yuan (US$100-$425).
China's media market has experienced major changes in recent years, including market segmentation, the rapid emergence of online news portal sites, and thriving video-channel websites boasting flexible operation and updated contents. A family gathering in the living room to watch news and shows is becoming a thing of the past.
Municipal TV operators are endeavoring to differentiate their operations from other broadcasters. Hunan Broadcasting System, for example, appeals to Chinese ideals of happiness, while Jiangsu Broadcasting Corp broadcasts emotional pieces. CCTV is stubbornly sticking to traditional-style segments.
In order to retain at least one-third of the market share, CCTV attempts to cater to all kinds of audiences, male and female, young and old, with unsatisfactory results. As a result, its dramas lack modern content, variety shows are without a distinct target viewer group, and trust among viewers in its news programs has dropped amidst the competition from "new media" and a number of mishaps. It has become increasingly difficult for CCTV to defend its baseline goals.
In order to cope with the onset of internet media, CCTV has made steps with CNTV, China's first internet TV. CNTV's content, though, is almost identical to that played by CCTV, passing straight through the attention span of China's young audiences, who favor replays of movie hits, royal-court dramas, and US TV programs.
According to a 2013 report on audio-visual media in China, released by the State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television of China, the frequency with which TVs are turned on in Beijing has plunged to 30%, down from 70% three years ago. Consumers aged 40 and older have become mainstream TV viewers. Meanwhile, impacted by the popularity of PCs, tablet PCs, and smartphones, the internet has become the major channel for viewers to watch TV-drama hits.
According to huxiu.com, in contrast to the practice of majority municipal satellite TV operations, which target niche audiences with distinct content, the universal-coverage strategy of CCTV has resulted in mediocre content, now a fatal flaw in its marketing strategy. Analysts warn that sooner or later the market will be crowded with municipal satellite TV operators vying for different age groups, income levels, and tastes, which leaving a constantly shrinking share to CCTV.