Gone are the days when localized versions of American, South Korean and Chinese entertainment programs dominated Vietnam’s television, and comes the new era when Thai TV shows reign over local small screens.
While producers of Vietnamese-made TV shows consider it is already a success if their programs do not incur any losses, shows made under formats from other countries, especially Thailand, continue to outplay their local rivals in the country.
Even though when the Vietnamese versions of Thai shows are ‘distorted,’ they still hold a superior place in Vietnamese viewers’ choices of entertainment.
According to Adsota advertising company – the official partner of Google and Facebook in Vietnam, the TV quiz show named Nhanh Nhu Chop, which is literally translated to “Fast as lightning,” is currently in the list of the most searched content on YouTube in the first half of 2018.
Nhanh Nhu Chop, co-produced in Vietnam by Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV) and Dong Tay Promotion Company based on a Thai format named Pritsana Fah Laep (Lightning Quiz), reaches a respectable number of views, from four million to 11 million when each episode is uploaded on YouTube.
According to Bangkok Post, Lightning Quiz was named Highly Commended Best Game or Quiz Program at the 2016 Asian Television Awards.
The first round has two competing teams send a member to play a quiz game seated on a ‘lightning chair’ that moves up and down depending on whether a right or wrong answer is given.
The player who gets ten questions right takes home a cash prize.
The jackpot round has the players answering another series of questions to win a car.
However, unlike the Thai original show, Nhanh Nhu Chop has been criticized by viewers for its ‘nonsense’ questions.
For example, in the semi-final broadcast on HTV7 on September 15, a player was asked “How to go to the palace?”
As no player got the correct answer, the host told them that to go to the palace, they have to go to the highlands.
It is applied with spoonerism as “go to the palace” means “vào cung” in Vietnamese, and when switching around final vowels and consonants, the word becomes “vùng cao,” which is literally translated to “highlands.”
A player could not help herself but spitted out “What a gibberish question!” when hearing the answer.
Such ‘nonsense’ questions that do not test the player’s knowledge are also found in some other episodes of Nhanh Nhu Chop.
In the year to date, a handful of programs copyrighted from Thailand have also been broadcast on HTV’s channels, such as Phien toa tinh yeu (Love Judge) on HTV2, Nhanh nhu chop Nhi (Kids Lightning Quiz) on HTV7.
And in the coming time, Nguoi ay la ai (Who is that person?) will also soon hit Vietnam’s many TV screens.
A representative of HTV2 channel explained to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper the reason why Vietnamese broadcasters have bought several Thai TV show formats recently.
“The criteria for producing a program include new elements, which also have to be close to Vietnamese viewers and make them feel interested right away,” the HTV2 representative said.
“The variety of Thai TV formats just beautifully meets this criterion,” he affirmed.
Tran Minh Tien, general director of Lasta Multimedia Company, who has long lived in Thailand, elaborated the opinion.
“Compared to other neighboring countries, Thailand and Vietnam are closer to each other in terms of people, culture, lifestyle,” Tien reasoned.
“Game shows that are loved in Thailand will thus also be welcome in Vietnam.”
In addition, the Lasta general director said that “financially speaking, buying Thai copyrights is much cheaper than buying from other countries, and producing [Thai programs] is also cheaper thanks to the close geographic distance between the two nations.”
Reality has proved these statements true.
On HTV2’s YouTube account, Kids Lightning Quiz has garnered more than 33.1 million views for nine full episodes, and the Love Judge has hit nearly 36 million views for 14 full episodes.
Before the reign of Thai programs, Vietnamese entertainment producers used to prefer and chose to import U.S TV shows such as The Voice, American’s got Talents.
However, the ‘American factor’ has lost its charm after a number of remade seasons of these shows.
The same situation also happened to TV programs of Chinese and South Korean origins that were purchased to Vietnam.
Where are Vietnamese programs?
While the Thai creativity has earned a certain reputation in the international marketplace, people can’t help but wonder where Vietnamese shows are and if they can confidently reach out to other territories like what Thai counterparts have done?
In response to these questions, Nguyen Thanh Phu, director of Jet Studio – the company that produced quite a lot of Vietnamese game shows, said that “producing programs of Vietnamese format is risky.”
“These programs have not been done before so they have only 50 percent of winning chance, while foreign shows have shaped the audience tastes and thus should be more favorable,” Phu said.
However, Vietnamese programs keep track of Vietnamese culture so they are still right up Vietnamese audience’s alley, the Jet Studio confidently said.
“Therefore, I am confident that the Vietnamese programs we produce have not suffered any losses yet,” Phu affirmed.
But to offer Vietnamese game shows to foreign entertainment exporters, the director was afraid that programs of Vietnamese origin are not suitable to foreign culture.
“So I think it is good enough that Vietnamese shows can stand in the domestic market,” he said.
Moreover, another important reason, according to Phu, is that Vietnamese TV shows are far left behind by their foreign peers in many points.
Quang Huy, a producer of some TV show games, said that Vietnam's programs are outdated by two to three years, in comparison to foreign-created ones.
“Vietnamese entertainment programs currently focus on art competitions such as singing, dancing, comedy, while reality shows are what foreign audiences turn their TV on for in other countries,” Huy explained.
“So it is very difficult to sell Vietnamese-copyrighted TV shows abroad,” he concluded.
Buu Dien, director of Dien Quan Media & Entertainment Company, likewise told Tuoi Tre that his firm was facing several challenges trying to do so.
“We actually cooperate with foreign companies to create international copyrighted game shows,” said Dien.
“But until now, we have not been able to sell any to foreign purchasers.”
The reason, according to Dien, is that “creativity TV investors in other countries have not seen Vietnam as a hot spot that can create exciting new formats bearing global elements.”
“And if we want to sell Vietnamese copyrights to other parts of the world, we must first have a strong creative industry,” Dien suggested.
“We do not have one now and are also not driving TV shows development in that direction,” he said.