American Programs and Their Effectiveness on Russian Television

Article excerpt

In recent years, many television programs that are virtual copies of Western--primarily American--programs have appeared on Russian television. The first wave of format adaptation on Russian television occurred right after the fall of the "Iron Curtain." These Western-style programs made television viewing more appealing for audiences, acquainting Russian TV viewers with new genres and also satisfying the new social needs of the population.

After 1993, when Russian state-owned TV was transformed into a commercial industry and started to gain greater economic independence, television stations entered a period of intense competition for advertisers and viewers. As a result, there appeared many new talk-shows and TV game shows, a second wave of format adaptation. And ever since then talk shows and game shows, most of them adapted variants of American programs, have remained a staple of Russian television. The number of talk and game shows of the second wave was so great that it would be impossible to mention all of them in one paper. Therefore, let's consider the most important and popular ones.

In 1995 the first women's talk show Ya Sama (By Myself), hosted by Julia Menshova, broadcast on TV-6 Moscow. In September 2001, as a result of the period of industry upheaval and political struggle known as the great "channel-wars," this program was relocated to the NTV channel and was re-titled To Be Continued.... The program concept is strongly reminiscent of The Oprah Winfrey Show, but its implementation is original. Today Menshova's talk show is one of most popular in the country.

Following the program, Ya Sama, on TV-6 Moscow, there appeared a number of other talk shows: Take a Step (hosted by Michael Kozhukhov); My Profession Is ... (hosted by Artur Krupenin); Artur Krupenin's Show; Those who ... (hosted by Anastasia Soloviova and Peter Fadeev), etc. In 1997 on the RTR channel the first entertainment talk show was aired. Good Evening with Igor Ugolnikov was the collaborative production of "Video International," RIA Novosti, and RTR. This program was a copy of the well known American late night show, The Tonight Show with Jey Leno, broadcast on NBC. Just like its American counterpart, Good Evening with Igor Ugolnokov was aired five times a week in prime-time, right after the evening news. Producers of the Russian version borrowed not only the general concept of the program but its setting, structure, content, and implementation as well. The show aired for one year and was cancelled in 1998.

In 1998 on NTV, there appeared an adaptation of the very popular American quiz--show Jeopardy. Svoya Igra (My Game) is hosted by Peter Kouleshov and produced by "Videointernational." Participants of this quiz show select questions from a general subject area with which they are acquainted. Sometimes they are faced with questions from unexpected areas, so-called "question-surprises." In 1999, after the liquidation of NTV, Svoya Igra was picked up by "TV-6 Moscow."

Beginning on August 17, 1998, Russia experienced a long financial crisis. The television industry was no exception. The television advertising market, upon which many broadcasting companies depended for their operations, failed. Managers of broadcasting companies were forced to take measures to overcome that difficult situation. And the solution was to reduce program production expenses as well as the management structure of the companies. Consequently, employees' salaries were reduced, and many people were dismissed from their jobs.

In Russian society at that time an "information hunger" and a panic-driven interest in political and economic issues reached a high point. In response, TV producers decided to fill the air gaps with news programs. In a few months the political and economic situation began to stabilize and TV companies since then have gradually resumed their customary broadcast schedules.

Along with the obvious negative impact of the 1998 economic crisis, there were also some positive results: managers of many TV channels realized, albeit the hard way, the necessity of holding to a strict financial bottom line in materials management, technical operations, as well as in human resources. …