Two European reality shows locked in a legal feud over copyright issues are each set to release licensed versions in China next month, which is causing confusion among local audiences.
Jiangsu Satellite TV announced last November that it will premiere a new show in March called Stars in Danger based on the format of popular German show TV Total Turmspringen. The show will feature celebrities receiving professional diving instruction and performing different dives in front of a panel of judges.
The original program is a production of French company Banijay International's German subsidiary Brainpool.
At almost the same time, Zhejiang Satellite TV announced it will debut Celebrity Splash, a Chinese version of the Dutch show Sterren Springen.
The Dutch show, started in August 2012, became a ratings hit earlier this year. Its creator Eyeworks International has already licensed the copyright to many other TV broadcasters around the world.
However, the German counterpart was not successfully exported until very recently, although it has had high ratings locally since its first season debuted in 2004.
Banijay initiated legal procedures in the Netherlands against Eyeworks last October, claiming the show is a copy of the much older German format.
But Eyeworks claims it was not aware of Brainpool's program and contends that it independently developed its own celebrity diving show.
Eyeworks managing director Sander Emmering said the German show "never attracted any substantial international exposure or interest" and suggested that Banijay only started to actively market the Brainpool diving format after the Dutch show became a hit, according to US newspaper the Hollywood Reporter.
The court has not yet made a decision. According to Eyeworks, the court's decision should have no bearing on the license agreement with its China partner.
In a statement, the company said that the legal proceedings "are for a Dutch court and apply to Dutch law only".
Stars in Danger has already signed contracts with more than 30 celebrities, and some of them are already receiving training, said Liu Yuzhe, an executive of Jiangsu Satellite TV's promotion department.
Meanwhile, Zhejiang Satellite TV has announced that more than 100 celebrities have expressed an interest in appearing on their program.
Both of the Chinese shows will invite Olympic gold medalists as trainers.
Du Fang, vice-president of Zhejiang Satellite TV, told Tencent entertainment news that the models of the two shows are actually not the same.
Du said that the company studied the German and Dutch formats before starting the project.
"The German format is more like an adventure program, which includes many games besides diving, and the Dutch format is purely a diving show, which is what we want," he said.
The Chinese versions of the two shows, however, will both focus on diving, he said. His colleague Wang Zhengyu, who is responsible for publicity and promotion, added that it is hard to say which one is copying the other because both the German and Dutch formats have been approved overseas.
Importing the format of foreign shows is the norm in the TV industry, said Liu of Jiangsu TV.
"That we import formats from overseas does not mean we do not innovate. Instead, it shows our pursuit of high quality," he said.
"By studying the shows that we introduce, we are also developing."
(China Daily 03/13/2013 page17)