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Networks’ pilot programs hit and miss during holiday

Three networks use different tactics for their top pilots, with SBS and MBC emerging on top

The three major broadcast networks in Korea launched pilot programs over the Lunar New Year holiday, testing the waters for potential new regular programs. Each network’s top show chose a different strategy to pull in viewers, with SBS’ music competition show and MBC’s hidden camera comedy clearly appealing to viewers more than KBS’ show featuring girl group members battling against one another.

The pilot programs that received top ratings on each network were “God’s Voice” on SBS (10.4 percent according to Nielsen Korea), “Hidden Camera Battle: Game of Thrones” on MBC (11 percent) and “Bon Bun Olympic” on KBS (7 percent). 


“God’s Voice” chose a safe route, combining elements from various successful music competition programs from the past. On the show, celebrity singers were pitted against non-celebrity singers with one handicap -- the songs that the stars had to sing were chosen for them by their competition. 

Despite song choices out of their comfort zone, the celebrity cast made of Lena Park, Kim Jo-han, Gummy, Sul Woon-do and Yoon Do-hyun, gave stellar performances.

(MBC Screenshot)
(MBC Screenshot)

MBC filled its holiday lineup with new, fresh spins on classic ideas. On the top-rated pilot “Hidden Camera Battle: Game of Thrones,” the show added a competition element to the classic entertainment show staple of hidden camera pranks, with the three hosts, Lee Kyung-kyu, No Hong-chul and Super Junior’s Lee Teuk, vying for the best prank. 

The highlight was Lee’s hidden camera prank played on Girl’s Days Hyeri, in which he pretended to be dating Girl’s Day member Mina. 


Public broadcaster KBS, meanwhile, disappointed viewers this Lunar New Year with an unimpressive pilot lineup, as no shows managed to achieve double-digit ratings. The highest-ranked show, “Bon Bun Olympic” tried to tap into the popularity of its cast, which was filled with A-list girl group members including EXID’s Hani, Twice’s Nayeon, Gfriend’s Yuju, AOA’s Jimin and former KARA member Heo Young-ji. 

Unfortunately, the popularity of the cast members backfired, as some fans were outraged that their favorite stars were invited onto a show only to be humiliated by it.  

The show gave the young stars missions to complete, including a general knowledge test, a concentration test, a test of their sex appeal and a talent test, but the underlying objective was to catch them expressing frustration or anger -- which would go against their “bon bun,” or duty, to always be pretty and smiling as girl group stars. For example, the test of their sex appeal was actually a pretense to get the stars to go up alone on a stage, where a scale publicly measured their weight.

KBS has suffered a dearth of new successful entertainment shows of late, and its Lunar New Year pilots seem to indicate it will have trouble keeping up with MBC and SBS in the entertainment sector this year as well.

By Won Ho-jung (

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Korea Herald daum